It’s time to take a look at how we shop for coverage and services related to our own health. We may not be able to control healthcare costs but we can become educated and take steps to control what we spend on it. Here are 5 ways to be savvy with your health care:
- Know your benefits
It’s important to understand what your health insurance plan covers before you need to use it. When your policy materials arrive in the mail, look them over carefully. Know the essentials like your copay, coinsurance and deductible amounts. Look into which prescription medications are covered. Are there any member discounts you can take advantage of?
Familiarize yourself with the resources your health insurance company offers to help you navigate the complexities of the health care system. For example, sign up for an online member account to track your spending and review medical and pharmacy claims.
- Choose a primary care physician (PCP)
Selecting a family doctor is an important step toward managing your health care. It’s the doctor you visit for most medical needs like annual visits and routine screenings, non-emergency earaches and sore throats, and the person you want to trust most with your health questions and concerns. Make sure the doctor you pick accepts your insurance and is “in-network” for insurance purposes, which means you’ll pay less out of your own pocket for services.
The next step is to schedule an annual preventive check-up. These appointments can help identify health problems early on so you can take steps to keep them from becoming chronic conditions. Read here about 15 things your doctor should know about you.
- Use network doctors and hospitals when possible
Health insurance companies negotiate discounted rates with certain doctors and hospitals in your area, and you will pay less out of your own pocket for visiting them. Selecting an “in-network” doctor will help you avoid surprise “out-of-network” charges and having to pay more out of pocket.
Check online for your health plan’s “in-network” directory of doctors, specialists, hospitals and other facilities, and know where the closest urgent care centers are before you need them. Know before you go!
- Ask about generic medications
If your doctor prescribes a brand-name drug, always ask if there’s a generic equivalent. On average, generics cost 30 to 80% less than brand names. In many cases, generics have lower insurance co-pays, too. Generic drugs sold in the U.S. have to meet the same quality and performance standards as their brand-name counterparts so the difference is in cost, not quality.
- Review your medical bills
When you do receive your medical bill, look it over carefully. Understand how much you will owe out of your own pocket after insurance and network deductions.
Medical bills may look different but they all include the same basic information. Your bill tells you the services you received, the dates you received them, the cost for each service and the total amount you owe.
If the bill looks correct, pay it and keep a copy for your records. If the statement has an error, contact the billing office at the clinic or hospital. You can always check with your doctor to make sure the correct codes were used when submitting the claim – they can be corrected and resubmitted before you pay unnecessary bills.
It might seem like a no-brainer but an essential part of being a wise health care consumer is to ask questions. Whether you’re reviewing that first envelop of policy materials from your health insurance plan, sitting in the doctor’s office or at home paying medical bills, if you don’t understand something, ask.