What to Do With a Childhood Savings Bond

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A savings bond used to be a common gift, though not always a welcome one. Well-meaning relatives gifted savings bonds for your birthday or the holidays. The goal was often to help you pay for college in the future. But for us kids, all we knew was it wasn’t the Pound Puppy or Care Bear we really wanted!

Nowadays 529 plans and other higher-interest earning options have replaced the savings bond. But that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. In fact, they may be sitting at the back of your closet right now. But you are cleaning out your closet or your safe deposit box, and now this long-forgotten and unexpected savings bond can help you clean up your finances.

It’s Still Good

That savings bond is still worth something. That’s the good news. Savings bonds gain value over time by earning interest and keep earning interest for 30 years. They pay interest every six months until they mature. So depending on how long it’s been since you cleaned your closet, you may still be making money as you read this. Now there are some steps you have to take to get money in return.

What Type of Savings Bond

There are several kinds of savings bonds. So you much determine which kind you have in your possession. Savings bonds are a contract between you and the federal government. If it’s an old bond from your childhood it is probably either an EE or an I bond. It will be clearly specified in the title which one you have.

EE bonds are similar to savings accounts. Paper bonds used to be sold at half the face value (you paid $50 for a $100 bond) and the interest continued to increase even after the face value is reached, so your $100 savings bond is probably worth more than $100 now. Paper EE bonds are no longer available and digital EE bonds are purchased at face value.

I bonds are similar to EE bonds. The chief difference is that the interest earned on an I bond is determined by a combination of a fixed rate and an inflation rate.  So there is some cost-of-living protection for the bondholder.

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Find Out What It’s Worth

Before you decide to cash in the savings bond, you’ll probably want to know what it’s worth. The interest rates and even the way interest rates are determined have changed over the years so it matters when you got yours. The best way to determine the current value of your savings bond is to use the Treasury Direct website. Whether you want to cash in the bond or continue to let it mature is then up to you.

There are some penalties for cashing in the savings bond early. If you redeem the bond early, you will lose three months’ worth of interest during the first five years. There are no penalties after five years. The earliest you can cash in the bond is after one year. If the bond is more than 30 years old, it has stopped earning interest and you should cash it in.

While you will have to pay federal taxes on your bonds, you do not have to pay state or local income taxes. There are some exemptions – most notably when bonds issued after 1989 are cashed in to pay qualified higher education expenses at an eligible institution.

Visit the Bank

Most banks should be able to help you cash your paper bonds. If they aren’t, they should be able to direct you to a financial institution that can. You will have to prove your identity to cash in your old bonds. You will have to fill out an tax form either when you redeem the bonds or at the end of the year. Your tax preparer should be able to help you with this part of the process.

More Money-Saving Reads:

  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
  • What’s a Bad Credit Score?
  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

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6 Tips for Your Job Search During the Coronavirus Outbreak

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New developments continue to pour in each day surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak has drastically changed nearly every aspect of life for millions of people, and the workforce in particular has been hit hard. Businesses, employees, and job seekers are all scrambling to identify what exactly “normal” will look like in the coming months. Many employers are questioning how to continue business as usual, and people seeking new employment are left with an equally tough question: How do I get a job during this pandemic?

While things are
changing every day, it’s important to know there are plenty
of businesses still actively hiring new employees. Your job search may look a
bit different than it did in the past, but rest assured that there are still
opportunities ripe for the taking if you make a few adjustments to your overall
job search strategy.

Look Specifically for Remote Jobs

Many businesses
have been deemed “nonessential” and legally
ordered to shut their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic. With office buildings
closing up shop for the time being, it’s a great idea
to focus your job-hunting efforts on remote work.

Work-from-home
opportunities have recently seen an exponential growth in popularity, and the
coronavirus crisis has forced even more businesses to rely on remote work to
keep things operational. As you begin your search, keep a closer eye out than
usual for remote job opportunities related to your field and expertise.

Specifically, come up with a plan for yourself should you land an interview for a remote job. Be prepared for a virtual interview and have a game plan for discussing how you would manage a balanced work-from-home routine. If you have prior experience working remotely, emphasize this on your resume. Once you have a plan in place, start your search by browsing a job board focused on remote employment such as FlexJobs.

Embrace Online Networking

Your professional
network is more important now than ever before. If you haven’t logged into your LinkedIn account recently, this is the time
to start embracing the power of online networking.

In addition to
browsing available jobs on the platform, make sure you’re interacting with your connections, sharing articles, and
keeping your profile in tip-top shape. After all, your LinkedIn profile can
catch the eye of a recruiter and become a deciding factor in whether you are
chosen for a job.

Even further, according to a field experiment conducted by ResumeGo, job seekers with an active and comprehensive LinkedIn profile had a 71% higher chance of getting an initial job interview. In short, now is your time to shine on LinkedIn!

Broaden Your Job Scope and Your Resume

If you’ve been
job hunting during the current pandemic and simply haven’t found many jobs you consider an ideal fit for you, it might
be time to broaden your horizons—even if it’s just a little.

Remember to keep
an open mind as you browse openings and realize that current opportunities are
a reflection of these trying times. With companies implementing hiring freezes
and others struggling to adjust to remote work, your dream job simply may not
be feasible at the time, and that’s okay!

Reevaluate your
best skills and ask yourself how else they could be useful to a company. Are
there similar jobs for which you’d make a great
fit? Can you tap into any other skills that may not be listed on your resume?
Do your best to stay open-minded and have more jobs to consider.

Stay in Touch with Your Old Employer

If you were recently laid off due to the coronavirus, rest assured you’re not alone. Many employees lost their jobs and were left scrambling to file for unemployment or seek out other work opportunities.

However, before
you cut ties with your previous employer, consider keeping the lines of
communication open as they may plan to bring their previous staff back into the
business once the dust settles. This is an uncertain time for everyone, so keep
all your options on the table.

Take the Opportunity to Learn New Skills

Whether you’re a pro in your field or just beginning to learn the ropes,
there’s always room for anyone to acquire
new skills that can take their abilities to greater heights.

If you’re not in financial stress and don’t need to find a new job in a hurry, this can be the perfect
time to invest in your professional skills and learn something new. Browse the
internet for courses or tutorials to help you earn a new certification to add
to your resume.

Additionally, be
sure to check your local colleges and universities, as many schools are
offering free or discounted courses for people to take during the COVID-19
pandemic. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about
anything, now is the perfect time to do so!

Pay Attention to the News

New developments
to the coronavirus and related relief efforts are announced daily. As medical
professionals and government officials continue to learn more about the virus
and adjust our precautions, you can expect a new norm for many weeks to come.

While cases have
been escalating at an alarming rate, keep in mind that things will get
better
. Stay up-to-date on the latest developments by tuning in to a
reputable news source so you can be one of the first to know if new
opportunities become available. Nonessential businesses will eventually open up
at some point, and when that moment comes, there will be an influx of new job
opportunities for those who move quickly.

Conclusion

During such difficult
times, it’s easy to become unmotivated when it
comes to pursuing new employment. Circumstances are changing each day, but
remember there is still plenty you can do to carry on with your job hunt.

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Several businesses are actively hiring, and others are even urgently seeking new team members. While your job hunt may look different for the next couple months, keep your head up! Together, we will overcome this crisis.

McLean Mills is a career coach and resume writer, as well as a content creator for Enhancv. He has over a decade of experience helping job seekers unlock their hidden career potentials and knows the hiring game inside and out. In his spare time, he loves jogging, playing frisbee with his dog, and spending time with his children.

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How to Maximize Your Tax Return for a Bigger Refund

Note: Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the IRS has extended the federal tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020. The recent relief package passed by Congress may have additional tax implications. Please contact a tax adviser for information you may need to complete your taxes this year. Learn more.

It’s finally spring—cue the flowers, warm weather and all-around greenery. And tax season. Sure, you could get a nice tax refund. Or you could put all that work into your taxes and get barely anything.

Luckily for you, we’ve got a few tips on how to maximize your tax return. We want to make sure that you avoid mistakes on your taxes. If you don’t you might end up paying even moretaxes than you have to or under-reporting your income and paying interest and penalties later.

We don’t want that to happen. This year, follow these easy ways that can help you maximize your tax return.

1. Don’t Leave Money on the Table

If you forget to use all of your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) dollars or don’t make contributions to your individual retirement and 529 accounts, you could leave money on the table. You have until December 31 to use money in your FSA or contribute to a 529 account. Some states even allow deductions for 529 contributions.

You can also make contributions to your traditional and Roth IRAs for the 2019 tax year has been extended to July 15, 2020.  For the 2019 tax year, you can contribute a total of $6,000 to IRAs.

Wondering how you can maximize your 2020 refund? If you’re ready to start working on maximizing your return for next year, consider how much you can contribute to retirement plans in 2020. You can contribute up to $19,500 to 401(k) plans.

Choosing to not file a return because your income for 2019 might also mean you’re leaving money on the table. Just because your income doesn’t require you to file doesn’t mean you’re not due a refund. And if you’re eligible for a refund, you have to file a return to get it. In 2018, the IRS reported it had $1.1 billion of unclaimed refunds from an estimated 1 million taxpayers who didn’t file in 2014 alone.

2. Claim All Available Deductions, Including Charitable Contributions

Dig into all deductions available to you. Some of the more common deductions include charitable donations, medical costs, prepaid interest on a mortgage and education expenses. Deductions are subtracted from your adjusted gross income, which lowers your actual taxable income.

Your taxable income is the amount you pay taxes on. The lower your taxable income, the less tax you pay and the higher refund you might receive.

If you’re charitably inclined and itemize your deductions, you can maximize your return by taking advantage of donations in all forms—cash and goods. That means you can claim the value of those clothes donated to a local church drive, for example.

Be sure to keep good records and receipts. Also, make sure that you’re only claiming deductions for organizations that have tax-exempt status with the IRS.

3. Use the Best Filing Status

What’s your best filing status? If you have a tax preparer, make sure you update them on any life changes you’ve had, such as getting married or divorced. Your relationship status on December 31 determines your filing status for the entire year and is the one you need to use when filing that year’s tax return. Options include:

  • Single
  • Head of household
  • Married, filing jointly
  • Married, filing separately
  • Qualifying widower

Whether or not you can file head of household, which comes with some tax benefits, is one of the more confusing questions. To file as a head of household, you must:

  • Be unmarried or considered unmarried on Dec. 31 of the relevant tax year
  • Paid more than half of the costs associated with keeping and maintaining your home during the tax year
  • Have a qualifying person, such as a child or other dependent, living with you for at least half the year

If you could technically file with two different statuses—like if you could file single and head of household—you might try calculating your taxes with both to find out which is in your best interest. This could mean checking to see if your refund changes whether you file as single or head of household or whether you file as married jointly or separately. Just don’t actually file your taxes until you make a decision, as you can only file once.

4. Report All Your Income

Some people fail to report all their income on their return. This oversight—intentional or not—can cost you. If you have unreported income and the IRS uncovers it, you’re looking at interest and penalties for unpaid taxes.

Sadly, you won’t get a free pass when you make an honest mistake. So spend a few extra minutes reviewing your return. Think through the year and your accounts to make sure you don’t forget any income sources. It’s often 1099 income that’s overlooked—things like contract work, interest income and dividends.

It can be helpful to keep a spreadsheet of all of your tax information—including sources of income, 1099s, charitable gifts and IRA and 529 contributions. Update it each year to help avoid missing things during tax prep. You’re less likely to forget about a 1099 if it’s listed in your prior year’s tax information.

5. Meet the Deadlines

Your 2019 federal tax return must be electronically filed or postmarked by July 15, 2020. The only exception is if you file an extension, which must be filed or postmarked by that date. An extension buys you through mid-October to file your return without penalties. However, you will still owe interest for any tax that was owed by July 15 and not paid.

What Happens if You Don’t File Your Tax Return on Time?

The IRS charges a number of penalties, including one for failing to file in a timely manner. It equates to 5% of your unpaid taxes and is charged for each month your return is late up to five months. And if you file more than 60 days late, you can be hit with a minimum penalty amount if even if you don’t owe any taxes.

If you don’t pay your taxes on time, the IRS charges penalties and interest on it. The total amount you might end up owing depends on how much tax you owe and how long it’s outstanding.

6. Check Your Math

It sounds a little obvious, but year after year, math or number errors are among the most common mistakes. When you’re filling out your tax forms, go slowly and double-check your numbers and math. A lot of mathematical errors can be avoided if you’re using tax software that does the calculating for you. If you find the entire process daunting, consider working with a tax preparer or accountant to help reduce these types of errors.

7. Check Your Bank Account Details

If you plan to use direct deposit to receive your refund, double check the bank account information you provide. If you enter the wrong account information, you won’t receive your refund as you planned. And getting things straightened out can be a pain.

If You Have to Refile a Tax Return

If you find you made a mistake after filing your tax return, make the necessary corrections as soon as possible. You need to file an amended return if you made mistakes regarding your filing status, dependents, income, deductions or credits. Form 1040X is used to file the corrected return, and it has to be done on paper rather than digitally. Amended returns must be filed within three years of the original filing date or two years from the point you paid any taxes owed for that tax year.

For more information about filing your taxes or to find answers to other common tax questions, check out the Tax Learning Center.

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How Much Cash Do You Really Need to Buy a Home?

Are you ready to buy a home? You’re not alone—in 2019, more than five million people bought an existing home. And that doesn’t even include the number of people who purchased new construction.

The point is, the housing market is always bustling and busy. And if it’s your first time buying a home, it might seem a bit daunting. You might have a couple of questions—how much money do you need to buy a home? And how can you even get those funds?

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. We’re here to guide you towards saving up, so hopefully you’ll be able to afford your dream home. Keep reading to learn more!

How Much Do You Need for a Down Payment?

Let’s start with one of the first payments you might have to make—a down payment. When someone takes out a mortgage loan, they’ll put down a percentage of the home’s price. That’s the down payment.

You might’ve heard that down payments are about 20% of the total cost of your new home. That can be true, but it really just depends on your mortgage. There are mortgage options that require little to no down payment, and how much you need often depends on your eligibility for different programs. Here are some different loan options:

1. USDA Mortgage

The USDA guarantees mortgages for eligible buyers primarily in rural areas. These loans do not have down payment requirements. To qualify for a USDA loan:

  • The property must meet eligibility requirements as to where it’s located.
  • Your household must fall within the income requirements, which depend on your state.
  • You must meet credit, income and other requirements of the lender, though they may be less rigorous than loans not backed by a government entity.

2. Conventional Mortgage

Conventional mortgages are financed through traditional lenders and not through a government entity. Depending on your credit and other factors, you may not need to put down 20% on such loans. Some lenders may allow as little as a five percent down payment, for example. But you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you put down less than 20%.

3. FHA Mortgage

FHA loans, like USDA loans, are partially guaranteed by a government agency. In this case, it’s the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). A down payment on these loans may be as low as 3.5%. Requirements for an FHA loan can include:

  • You’re purchasing a primary home.
  • The home in question meets certain requirements related to value and cost.
  • A debt-to-income ratio between 43% and 56.9%.
  • You meet other credit requirements, though these may not be as strict as with conventional loans.

How much do you need to make to buy a $200K house?

Given the above information, here’s what your down payment might look like on a home worth $200,000:

  • USDA loan: Potentially $0
  • Conventional loan: From $10,000 to $40,000
  • FHA Loan: As low as $7,000

These are just some options for mortgages with low down payment requirements. Working with a broker or shopping around online can help you find the right mortgage. In addition to the down payment, you do need to ensure that you can afford the mortgage and make the monthly payments.

Don’t Forget the Cash You’ll Need for Closing

Closing costs are typically between three and six percent of your mortgage’s principal. That’s how much you’re borrowing, so the less you put down, the more your closing costs might be.

Here’s a range of closing costs assuming a cost of three percent of the low range home purchase, when buying with less than 20% down:

  • For a home purchase between $500,000 and $600,000, you’ll need at least $15,000 for closing costs
  • Between $300,000 and $500,000, at least $9,000 for closing costs
  • Between $150,000 and $300,000, at least $4,500 for closing costs

Where Can You Get the Money to Buy a Home?

These numbers should give you an idea of how much cash you’ll need for a home purchase. Acceptable sources for procuring cash to close on a house can be one or any of the following:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • IRA
  • 401(k)
  • Checking/ savings
  • A money market account
  • Retirement account
  • Gift money

The key here is that the money needs to be documented. You have to be able to prove you had it and didn’t borrow it simply for the purpose of making your down payment or covering closing costs.

Don’t have cash available from any of the above-mentioned sources? There are other sources you can use as long as they can be paper-trailed, such as your tax refund or a security deposit refund on your current home rental.

Plan for Other Important Costs

While down payments and closing costs are the biggest out-of-pocket expenses involved in buying a home with a mortgage, you may need to cover other costs. There might be some additional home buying and moving-in costs. Those could include inspections, the cost of any necessary repairs not covered by the sellers and moving fees.

Are You Ready to Buy a Home?

Saving up the right amount of money is just one step in buying a home. You must also ensure your credit score is in order. Lenders look at different credit scores when they consider someone for a mortgage. Sign up for ExtraCredit to get a look at 28 of your FICO Scores to understand how lenders might see you as a borrower. Once you check your scores, you can decide whether you need to build your score or start shopping for your mortgage.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

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Coronavirus Mortgage Relief: What Homeowners Need to Know

A row of colorful townhouses on a sunny day.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act—also known as the CARES Act—is a $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the federal government. The goal of the CARES Act is to provide relief for individuals and businesses struggling with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns. One of the components of the CARES Act is coronavirus mortgage relief.

This mortgage relief provides some options for homeowners, with federally backed mortgages, who can’t keep up with mortgage payments. The CARES Act also provides some relief for renters. Here’s a breakdown of some of the relief options available under the coronavirus mortgage stimulus.

Who Is Covered by Federal Coronavirus Mortgage Relief?

The mandates under the CARES Act only cover mortgages that are federally backed. Federally backed loans are those that are guaranteed, insured or made by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs or the Department of Agriculture or meet one of the following other requirements:

  • They’re insured by the Federal Housing Administration or under the National Housing Act.
  • They have been purchased or secured by either the Federal National Mortgage Association or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.
  • They’re guaranteed by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992.

If you’re not sure if your mortgage is federally backed, call your mortgage lender to find out. With around 65% of mortgages protected by the new mandates, there’s a good chance yours is one of them.

Are People Without Federally Backed Mortgages Out of Luck?

The coronavirus mortgage stimulus mandated by the CARES Act doesn’t cover mortgages that aren’t backed by the federal government. But that doesn’t mean your mortgage company won’t offer some relief.

States are also enacting relief plans, and many include working with mortgage providers to provide some relief for homeowners. And many mortgage companies already have contingencies for working with people who are struggling with mortgage debt. You may be able to apply for relief that lets you skip a few months of payments or restructure your mortgage to make it more affordable. Contact your mortgage provider to see what is available for your situation.

Another option to consider is refinancing your mortgage to get potentially better rates. That can drop the total monthly mortgage payment.

What Should You Do If You Can’t Pay Your Mortgage Because of COVID-19?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that it’s important to continue paying your bills, including your mortgage, if you can. If you’re struggling to make those payments because of income loss due to COVID-19, however, you should contact your lender as soon as possible. Waiting to deal with the problem can result in late payments, extra fees and negative items on your credit report.

What Mortgage Relief Is Offered Under the CARES Act?

The CARES Act provides two protections to help homeowners who are dealing with financial distress because of the coronavirus and related economic issues. The first is a foreclosure moratorium. That means that lenders of these loans cannot take action on foreclosures or begin new ones for at least 60 days from the time the act was signed in March 2020. This protection is also only available for federally guaranteed loans.

The CARES Act also provides a right to forbearance for covered mortgage holders. Forbearance is the option to stop making scheduled payments on a loan without incurring negative consequences. In this case, the payments would likely be added to the end of the loan, so you would simply pay them later.

You can request a forbearance of 180 days. You can also request a second forbearance of 180 days if you are still experiencing COVID-19-related financial distress. That’s up to 12 months of mortgage payment relief for those who qualify.

How Do You Get Coronavirus Mortgage Relief?

Start by calling your mortgage service provider and explaining your situation. Whether or not your mortgage is federally backed, this is the first step.

Be prepared to be on hold for a while. Many other people are attempting to access the same help, so you could wait for a while to speak to a customer service representative. You should also be prepared with the following information:

  • The reason you can’t pay your mortgage as scheduled
  • How long you may be in this situation
  • Your current income and expenses
  • Information about current assets, such as how much you have in the bank

Ask what options you have for mortgage relief. Then, follow any instructions provided by your lender for how to apply for the relief.

What Relief Do Renters Have Under the CARES Act?

The CARES Act also provides some relief for renters. For 120 days from March 27, 2020, landlords of certain types of properties can’t begin eviction procedures or charge fees because someone hasn’t paid their rent. The mandate covers all federally financed rental units. That accounts for around 28% of all rental properties in the nation.

Again, you should continue to pay your rent if you can. If you can’t, talk to your landlord immediately to find out what arrangements might be possible. But know that if you’re in a federally financed property, you can’t be evicted during this time.

Other Coronavirus Rent Relief Options

You may be able to create a partial payment plan with your landlord. If your landlord can’t or won’t work with you, reach out to your bank to find out about emergency COVID-19 loans. Many are offering short-term loans of up to $3,000 to provide financial relief to those impacted by the pandemic.

What Should You Do After You Receive Coronavirus Mortgage Relief or Work Out a Deal With Your Landlord?

Get any relief deal in writing. If there are errors or misunderstandings about it in the future, you can refer to the document.

If you get mortgage relief, still read your mortgage statement every month. That will help you see that the mortgage company is upholding their end of the agreement.

Whatever relief you get, consider monitoring your credit. That way you know if anyone has incorrectly reported a missing or late payment on your credit report. You can challenge the accuracy of a new negative item—which can cause your credit to be lower and impact the financial options you have in the future.

Consider signing up for your free Credit Report Card. You get your credit score and personalized recommendations on how to improve your score in the future.

Go to the COVID-19 Guide

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4 Ways Health Insurance Can Save you Money

Close up of a doctor's white coat pocket full of pens and medical equipment.

Many health insurance shoppers will consider premium costs when purchasing health insurance. The full cost of a health planalso includes your out-of-pocket expenses, like the deductible, copays, and coinsurance.

As important as it is that your health plan is affordableand that the monthly premiums fit into your budget, it’s also important to consider the value health insurance offers. If you’re considering opting out of health insurance next year, evaluate the value of the following health plan offerings before you finalize your decision:

  • Discounted rates
  • Cost-sharing
  • Preventive care coverage
  • Additional features

While everyone has a different financial situation with varying constraints, health insurance is a worthwhile investment.

1. Discounted Rates 

Health insurance companies negotiate costs directly with hospitals and other medical care providers. These rates are then included with the health plans offered by the company. 

Some plans only have negotiated rates for in-network providers. Others have different negotiated rates for in-network care and out-of-network care. All health plans offer coverage for emergency services when a patient is admitted—whether or not the care was received from an in-network provider.

The amount the hospital or clinic usually charges is higher than the negotiated rate. The differences between the negotiated rate and the standard rate varies depending on how the insurance company has negotiated. 

However, when you receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) with the breakdown of costs, you’ll see:

  • What the hospital or clinic usually charges
  • What the negotiated cost actually was
  • What portion of the bill your health insurance company paid
  • The amount left for you to pay

2. Cost-Sharing 

Health insurance plans come with an annual deductible and annual out-of-pocket maximum. The deductible is the amount of money the insured must pay in cost-sharing over the course of the year before the insurance company takes on a greater responsibility for the costs. The out-of-pocket maximum is higher than the deductible. Once it is reached, the insurance company is responsible for the remainder of your covered medical expenses.

Health insurance plans often have separate deductibles for prescriptions and medical care. Health insurance plans that offer out-of-network coverage will have a different deductible and out-of-pocket expenses maximum for out-of-network care and in-network care. 

Health insurance companies determine cost sharing in a few different ways depending on how your plan works. With a traditional plan, you’ll have copays and coinsurance. Coinsurance means that the insured pays a certain percentage of the discounted medical bill.

Copays are a set amount that the insured pay when they receive health care services. There are usually set amounts for prescriptions, primary care visits, specialist visits, and emergency services. Payment may also be required beyond the copay after the bill is processed by the insurance company. The copay contributes to this payment.

High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) work differently. Instead of having copays and coinsurance, you pay for your medical expenses as you receive medical care. You can use the funds in your HSA to pay these costs.

Funds in your HSA roll over year to year and can be invested. The money you put into your HSA is tax-free. The monthly premiums for HDHPs tend to have lower premiums because a greater cost responsibility is on the policyholder. Some people take advantage of these plans while they are healthy and save funds for medical expenses later in life.

The specifics of cost-sharing differ from plan to plan, so carefully reviewing your plan before signing up will help you understand how the cost-sharing works.

3. Preventive Care Coverage 

Because of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans cover preventive care fully. While the future of the Affordable Care Act is uncertain, coverage for preventive care is an important way that health insurance protects your finances.

Doctors can detect some health problems early on and implement treatment plans to prevent the issue from developing further. Regular visits to the doctor go a long way in avoiding expensive bills later, especially for preventable issues.

It’s especially important for people with some diagnoses and conditions to visit a specialist regularly as needed because some health issues can be managed successfully and future complications can also be avoided.

4. Additional Features 

Health insurance companies also offer the following helpful features with their plans:

  • Telemedicine
  • Nurse help lines
  • Care management

These additional features are helpful resources for people. Telemedicine allows plan members to work with a doctor over the phone or through video chat in non-emergency situations. Some companies offer this service to plan members for free, like Oscar. Other companies also offer it as an a la carte supplement to health insurance, like GoHealth.

Others may charge a fee when you use the telemedicine service. The fee for the telemedicine service may vary based on your plan and your insurer and can be cheaper and faster than setting an appointment with your doctor or visiting an urgent care.

Nurse help lines are another common offering among health insurance companies, including Cigna. This hotline gives people quick access to a nurse without needing to leave their home. In non-emergency situations, the nurse can answer questions and give advice on scheduling appointments. 

While these benefits are nice and do not require you to establish care with a doctor, you can always call your doctor’s office with questions to get similar assistance. If the doctor can’t take your call, one of the assistants can take a message and get back to you with a response in a non-emergency situation. Even after hours, there’s usually a doctor on-call. 

Another benefit some health insurers offer is care management. These can be helpful to people who want support with improving their health. Companies like Kaiser Permanente offer this with many of their plans to help members with chronic conditions.

Is the Investment Worth It? 

It’s easy to see how much your health insurance plan saves you on medical care when you review the EOB.

It’s trickier to determine if the cost of monthly premiums is worth the savings. If you have health insurance, you can keep track of how much you are spending on medical care, prescriptions, and premiums. Evaluate you EOBs over the course of the year to understand what the costs would have been without insurance.

Medical procedures, surgeries, and emergency medical treatment are more expensive than preventive care. Some of these events can be planned for in advance, but many cannot. 

Because of the high financial cost of these services, not having health insurance is a risk for your financial stability.


Alice Stevens loves learning languages and traveling. She currently manages content for BestCompany.com, specializing in personal finance, health insurance, Medicare, and life insurance.

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