Eight ways to cut your health care costs now in a complex world of health insurance and employee benefits.

 

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The cost of health care and health insurance continues to rise. That is why it always helps to learn how to take a few simple steps to limit your out-of-pocket health care costs.  One of the best ways is STAY HEALTHY.  As much as we all want that we must realize that sooner of later we all need to access health care or our benefit plans.

Learn how to save money and still receive the quality care you need. Start by looking at your plan information so you know what services are available.  I know this is not the most fun information in the world, but it will save you many headaches in the long run.   Try all or some of the tips below to help you get the most from your benefits and save money on your care.

1. Save Money on Medicines

There are several ways you can cut costs on your medicines.

  • Ask your health care provider if you can switch to generic medicines. They have the same active ingredient but cost much less than brand name drugs. In some cases, the difference is huge!
  • Ask your provider if there is a less expensive medicine or alternative that treats the same condition but at a lower cost. Many of the prescription drug benefits included in our health plans today require the use of less costly medications over the more expensive brand name non-formulary drugs.
  • See if you can order your medicine through your carrier’s mail order service. In most cases you will receive a 90-day supply of medications rather than only a 30-day supply of which you can get at your retail pharmacy.
  • Take all your medicines as directed. Not taking your medicine or not taking enough medicine may lead to further health problems. This is so important and will save you time and money in the long run.
  • Look for Apps you can download onto your smartphone. One in particular that does a great job, is Good RX.  This is a great app that will save you big money on medications.  It tells you where you can receive your medication at the lowest cost to you in your immediate area.

2. Use your benefits

  • Get your routine health screenings. These tests can catch health problems early, when they may be more easily treated. And you often do not have to pay a copay for health screenings, vaccines, and annual well visits. Even if you have a very high deductible plan.  This is a provision under the Affordable Care Act.  Take advantage of it.
  • Get good comprehensive prenatal care if you are pregnant. This is the best way to ensure you and your baby will be healthy. This can really cut costs in the long run.
  • Some health plans offer health advocates or case managers. A health advocate can help you get the most of your benefits. A case manager can help you to manage complex health problems such as diabetes or asthma.
  • Use free and discounted services. Many health plans offer discounts on things like gym memberships, eyewear, discount dental plans, and other wellness benefits.  Use them that’s what they’re for.

3. Plan for Urgent and Emergency Care

When an illness or serious injury occurs, you need to decide how serious it is and how quickly you need to get medical care. This will help you choose whether to call your provider, go to an urgent care clinic, or get emergency care.  This will ultimately save you and after things settle down will make all the difference in the world.

You can decide where to get care by thinking about how quickly you need care.

  • If a person or baby born or unborn could die or incur permanent harm, it is an emergency. Examples include chest pain, trouble breathing, or severe pain or bleeding,
  • If you need care that cannot wait until the next day to see your provider, you need urgent care. Examples of urgent care include strep throat, bladder infection, or a dog bite, or high persistent fever.

You will save both time and money if you use an urgent care center or see your provider rather than going to the emergency department. Plan by knowing which urgent care center is the closest to you. Also, learn how to recognize an emergency in adults and in a child.

4. Ask in advance About Outpatient Facilities

If you need a procedure or surgery, ask your provider if you can have it done at an outpatient clinic. Often, getting care at a clinic is cheaper than having the same procedure in a hospital.  In most medical groups and hospitals, they do have outpatient facilities available.

5. Choose In-Network Health Care Providers

Depending on your health coverage, you may have the choice to see providers who are in-network or out-of-network. You pay less to see providers who are in-network, because they have a contract with your health plan. This means they charge lower rates.  Having a PCP (primary care physician) is required by most HMO plans.  So please choose wisely.  Call that physician before you have an urgent situation.  Call right after signing up.  Make an appointment with them right away.  See if this physician meets your expectations.  Waiting until you are not feeling well to meet for the first time isn’t always a pleasant experience for you.  It won’t be a good situation if you find out you do not care for this physician and you feel terrible.

6. Take Care of Your Health

A simple way to save money on health care is to stay healthy. Most of us just can’t afford to get sick.  Of course, that is sometimes easier said than done. But staying at a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and not smoking lowers your risk for health problems. Staying healthy helps you avoid costly tests, treatments and very expensive medications for ongoing conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

7. Choose a Health Plan That is Right for You.

When choosing a plan, think about the health needs of you and your family. If you pick a plan with higher premiums, more of your health costs will be covered. This may be a good idea if you have a health problem, such as diabetes, and need regular care. If you rarely need medical care, then you may want to choose a plan with a higher deductible. You will pay lower monthly premiums and likely save money overall. Also compare prescription drug coverage. Why pay for benefits every month that you may never use.  Budget appropriately.

8. Use a Health Care Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Many employers offer an HSA or FSA. These are savings accounts that allow you to set aside pre-tax money for health care expenses. This can help you save several hundred dollars per year. HSAs are owned by you, earn interest, and can be transferred to a new employer. FSAs are owned by your employer, do not earn interest, and must be used within the calendar year.  See your HR department or talk to a good insurance broker.  We at Morgan & Franz insurance can help you answer all of your health insurance needs.  Call us or email us today.

 

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