A new year, new rules and maybe even a new health care system. What does it mean for world-weary consumers, especially before year-end?
In a word, it means change — and it could be coming fast. That’s because health care spending continues to rise. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health care spending in the year 2007 increased 6.1% to $2.2 trillion. That’s about $7,421 per person, and it’s also 16.2% of the nation’s gross domestic product.
In 2003, U.S. health care spending only amounted to 15.3%. The HHS also says that consumer health care spending — measured by private health care premium payments — is rising by 6% annually, while out-of-pocket spending increases by 3.3% every year.
That rounds out to a 9.3% rate of growth for U.S. health consumers annually, and that is an unsustainable number. That’s also why health care reform is top priority in Washington these days.
But reform or no reform, you don’t have to take things lying down. Here’s a checklist of things you can do to maximize your health care insurance before Dec. 31 — and before any big health care reform kicks in.Get checked out now. Even if there is no reform, health care prices will likely rise anyway. Private insurers regularly raise rates from year to year, so take advantage of your current health care plan’s pricing right now and schedule that check-up for 2009.
Check your HSA. Health savings accounts, in their current form, likely won’t survive the health care reform that Congress has in mind. So if you have money saved in an HSA or a flexible savings account, use it or risk losing it. Even if Congress takes a pass on health care reform, you can’t roll HSA funds over into a new year.