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How to save on your health insurance

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Benefits of savingHow to saveSummary
Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI
Written by Lily Ferguson
Updated on

Health insurance is expensive in the United States. Yet it’s important to make sure you have health insurance so you can protect yourself and your family, especially if you experience an unexpected health condition or injury.

If you’re looking to save some money, you can look into several available options. This includes researching different plans to find one that balances premiums and deductibles and using prescription discount programs, like the free Optum Perks Discount Card, to save on your medication costs.

Benefits of saving on your health insurance

According to data from 2022, the United States spent over $12,000 per person on health. Between 2019 and 2020, health spending increased by 10% in the United States. This shows that health insurance is expensive, and it only costs more as the years go by.

What’s more, some 2017 research suggests that the cost of treatment is often a reason that people stop taking their medications, which can lead to preventable deaths. Without health insurance, the cost of medications may be even higher.

Cheaper health insurance may be a way to ensure that people keep up with their prescribed treatments.

How to save on health insurance

If you’re concerned about the costs of health insurance, you can try several strategies to save some money.

Find a balance between premium and deductible

A deductible is the amount you pay for healthcare services before your insurance plan starts to pay. Healthcare plans have different deductible options. According to data from 2023, the average annual deductible for people with coverage for one person was around $1,700.

Your premium is the amount you pay each month for your insurance. In 2023, the average individual monthly premium was around $700 per month and the average family plan premium was around $2000.

Choosing the one that’s right for you is your first step to saving money.

  • A high deductible plan means your monthly premium will be lower, but you’ll have to pay more medical costs upfront before your insurance kicks in to pay its share.
  • A low deductible plan has a higher monthly premium. However, the total amount you’ll pay out of pocket before your insurance starts paying is lower than the amount in high deductible plan.
  • A zero deductible plan doesn’t require you to meet any minimum before your insurance starts covering the full cost of your healthcare services. These typically come with the highest monthly premiums.

You’ll want to consider your family’s finances and your health needs when selecting a deductible. If you can afford to pay a higher monthly premium, a zero deductible or low deductible plan can save you money on unexpected medical events, such as emergency surgery.

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Pick the PPO plan, when you can

When choosing your health insurance plan, you’ll likely have a choice of either an HMO (health maintenance organization) or a PPO (preferred provider organization). These options have a few key differences:

  • HMO: This plan usually limits coverage to doctors who work for or have a contract with the plan. People with HMO plans also need referrals from their primary care physician (PCP) to visit a specialist, such as a dermatologist or an allergist.
  • PPO: This type of health plan has contracts with medical institutions, such as hospitals, and with doctors to create a network of participating professionals. With a PPO plan, you pay less if you go to doctors in the plan’s network, but you can also see doctors outside your network. And unlike an HMO, you can typically see a specialist without a referral from your PCP.

Staying in-network for your treatment can help you take advantage of network discounts, which can ultimately save you money on your treatment costs.

Use your HSA…

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-free health account available only to people with certain high deductible health plans.

With an HSA, you pay no taxes on contributions into this account or on withdrawals for qualified medical expenses, such as prescriptions. And the money in your HSA can be invested and grow tax-free. Contributions can come from you and your employer.

But many Americans don’t use their HSAs. According to a 2020 study, 1 in 3 eligible people don’t use these valuable savings accounts. And among those who did, more than half of the people hadn’t put any money into it in the past year. That means they’re missing out on potentially thousands of dollars in annual tax savings.

…Or use your FSA

A flexible spending account (FSA) is similar to an HSA, but it’s available to people with all types of health plans, not just high deductible ones.

Both you and your employer can make contributions to this tax-free account. That allows you to save faster for a big medical event, such as surgery. But unlike an HSA, the money in an FSA must be spent before the end of the year.

Use pharmacy discount plans

Prescription discount cards, like the one Optum Perks offers, can help you save money on your medications. But these typically work separately from your insurance. This means you can use one or the other but not both together.

A discount card might make your medications cheaper than going through your insurance, which can save you money in the long run. However, it’s important to note that medications purchased using a discount card don’t count toward your deductible and won’t make your premium any cheaper.

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Take advantage of government subsidies

You might qualify for government-subsidized health insurance programs, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This is even more likely if your household income falls below certain percentages of the federal poverty level.

Shop wisely for your healthcare needs

Shop for healthcare as you would for your groceries or a new car. You have the power to search for the best deal.

Different healthcare professionals charge different amounts for the same services and procedures, so it may benefit you to get a second opinion and ask questions about the costs with each doctor’s office or facility.

Prices also depend on your insurance company, your plan, and whether you pay your bill in cash.

For example, a 2023 study found that prices are often lower when you pay by cash, especially in hospitals owned by the government or located in low income areas.

Avoid the ER if you can

An emergency room (ER) is typically the most expensive place to receive care. According to a National Nurses United report, more than 100 hospitals in the United States charge markups of more than 1,000% for medical procedures. These include the ones you’d undergo in the ER.

If you’re experiencing an emergency like difficulty breathing or heavy bleeding, you should head to the ER. However, in many cases, an outpatient center or urgent care is more appropriate than an ER for care.

Common issues that can be handled at an urgent care facility include:

  • fever
  • abdominal pain
  • dehydration
  • sprains and strains
  • small cuts that might need stitches
  • rapid heart rate

But if you have more serious symptoms, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, or a severe cut, head straight to the ER or call 911.


Healthcare in general can be expensive, and choosing a health insurance plan can feel overwhelming. It’s likely that you’ll want to find ways to save money on your health insurance.

You can take several different steps to save money on health costs. These include shopping around to find the best plan for you and finding a plan that balances your deductible with the premium you pay.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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