Four Ways to Lower Your Health Insurance

Health insurance is a must to hedge against an emergency medical need, but for some it's a struggle to pay premiums. Here are a few ways to trim your health costs.

Stay healthy with exercise and diet. Some medical conditions are unavoidable -- but some can be prevented or well managed. As you take action to control your health and prevent sickness -- such as quitting smoking or losing weight -- your health costs may decrease. You can also check with your company to see if it offers employees incentives for improving their health. This could include reimbursements for joining fitness clubs or a discounted premium for undergoing a fitness evaluation.

Shop around for quotes online. Search for quotes online to get a feel for what your local providers offer, and research which ones give a discount for policies bought online. Ask for a full explanation of benefits, and calculate your out-of-pocket costs based on your premium and needs.

Consider "consumer-directed" health plans, otherwise known as high-deductible insurance. These plans will cut your premiums, but if you get sick you may get socked with a very high deductible.

That can range from $1,000 to $10,000 -- an amount not many families have tucked away in case of emergencies. You may pair this type of coverage with a health savings account, where you can direct pretax dollars into an account for medical uses. In this plan, you can manage your care costs and score a low premium. If it's not a good fit for you and your family, you can change insurance plans once a year with most employers.

Shop for private insurance. Do health insurance needs and costs differ for each member in your family? You may benefit from putting one or two members on a private plan while keeping the others on your work-provided plan. You could save costs by finding a private plan, for example, for a child who has ongoing medical needs. The deductibles, co-pays and doctors in your private insurance network may differ from the ones on the work-provided plan, so determine whether this is a good fit for you.