How to Save on Health Care

 Illustration courtesy of    Emily Isabella

Illustration courtesy of Emily Isabella

Go Shopping for the Best Plan

It can be tempting when selecting a health plan to do so according to the lowest monthly premium rates or simply go with one that you've used before. This is the most common mistake according to Wellthie, a healthcare technology company that helps people understand their health insurance options. These types of plans are only appropriate for those with minimal care needs. However, benefits can change form year to year as can your needs or your family's.

In order to select the best plan, keep these in mind:

  • What were your or your family's total doctor visits that year, apart from emergencies? 
  • What were your prescription neds? How about dental and other various services that might not be included in an average plan?
  • Compare what you have paid in the past year for these items to reflect on what your specific needs would be in looking for the best plan. 
  • Review your. deductible and monthy premiums as well, since these can be horrifyingly high and must be paid to fully access a plan that may initially have seemed affordable. 

Look into an HD Plan

If the above case of being generally healthy applies to you and/or your family and you don't go to the doctor often, you may want to consider a High Deductive (HD) health plan. This will save you significant amount of money since the cost per month for premiums is lower. 

Another benefit with most HD plans is that you may qualify for a Health Savings Account (HSA), in which you can save—on a pre-tax condition—money to pay your insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health expenses.

Even more, any unused HSA investment continues to multiply anually on a tax-deferred basis. 

On the other hand, this type of plan may not be right for you if you or anyone on your plan is experiencing a chronic condition and/or you are not in a position to either commit to an HSA or the possibility of a high deductible.

Up to 50 percent of your doctor or hospital bills may contain mistakes that end up costing you money

Find a Discount Club for Dental Coverage

Many people don't have dental insurance or cannot afford to add it onto their pre-existing plan. Instead of going without it and risking a high payment for an emergency or skipping annual check-ups, you may look into plans like AmeriPlan Careington International or HealthInsurance.com's dental-discount cards. As a participant in these plans, you may receive up to a 60 percent discount. Monthly membership fees can be as low as $8.95. However, you will most likely need to pay cash at the time of service for your treatment. Check each plan's coverage in your area before you sign up—some regions have fewer participating providers than others.

 

Join the Farm Bureau

Contrary to popular beleif or intial reaction, you don't need to be a farmer to join your state's farm bureau. You can join simply by paying an annual membership fee, which is usually less than $50. You might be eligible various benefits through this plan, including discounted group health insurance in certain states. This might be a good option for you if you or your partner are self- or unemployed. To learn more, simply type "farm bureau" and your state's name in a Google search.

 

Find Extra Advantages & Support

Many health plans offer perks that they don't advertise. For instance, some companies like Kaiser Permanente have nurses on call 24/7. They can assist you in making a same-day appointment or guide you in home-care, such as whether or not your symptoms warrant an immediate doctor visit (and therefore another co-pay). Some plans also offer discounts or coverage alternative treatments scuh as acupuncture and discounts for gym memberships, massage treatments, and other health programmes. You may also contact your provider to see if they have any additional assistance for coverage or treatment of chronic conditions, like diabetes or asthma. There are some companies that have such advocate programs, like UnitedHealthcare’s Advocate4Me, that may offer treatments at a lower cost. 

 

Inspect Your Bills Carefully

Up to 50 percent of your doctor or hospital bills may contain mistakes that end up costing you money, according to Patient Care, a consumer-advocacy group in Milwaukee. This can be due to human error such as an incorrect billing code, which can either cause a lower coverage amount or even rejection of claim(s). Other common errors that can affet you include mistakes in an account number, claims with incomplete information, and even claims sent to the wrong insurance-company address by your provider.

If you're unsure about the cost of your treament, consult your benefits or call your insurance company. If you catch an error, you can send a certified letter to your insurer then follow up on it within the month to make sure the mistake is corrected.

 

And Still, Do Not Accept a Rejection

If your insurance company won't pay for a service you think you deserve, don't lose hope—you may still appeal their decision. If you're denied again, you can contact your state insurance commission. That agency can mediate a dispute between you and your insurance company.T his may sound like a pain in the behid or time consuming, but it can save you a significant amount of money in the end. 

 

Stay Within Your Network

This might be a given, but make sure that the provder you're seeing is within your insurance company's network. When making an appointment, always double-check that the doctor is still in your insurance plan's network. Do this often, even if you see the provider regularly, as coverage can come and go. Be mindful of this especially when you go to the hospital or an urgent-care center. Just because a facility participates in your plan doesn't mean all the professional, such as the nurse-practitioner or radiologist, does. Always check with your insurance company about the recommended practitioner to see if you're out-of-town and need to seek care.

 

Be Clear About Your Finances

Don't be embarrassed to tell your medical or alternative healthcare provider what you are financially capable of when seeking treament, especially if it's long-term or an emergency one. They may be able to suggest a less-costly treatment option, agree to lower fees, or do so in installments rather than at once. Some care providers may offer a reduced rate if you are having excrutiating financial circumstances coupled with a need for care. 

 

Check Dental School Providers

If you need expensive dental care, you might consider visiting a clinic at a local dental school. These have supervised students staff these clinics and charge between 20 and 50 percent less than what you'd pay at a professional dental office. You can search for dental-school programs in your area at ada.org.

 

Take Preventative Measures: Check-Ups & Protection

Make sure to take preventative measures since under the Affordable Care Act, all preventative-care visits are free. These include annual physical & OB/GYN exams as well as mammograms. This can prevent unnecessary espenses in the future and avoid health coplications in the future. 

Preventative care also happens outside of the medical system. Eating well, staying hydrated, washing your hands properly, and even taking measures like wearing a helmet when biking.