Ten Easy Ways to Stretch Your Health Care Dollars

Making the most of your health care dollars can actually be easier than you think. Below are ten easy ways you can easily stretch your health care dollar and do your part to help keep overall health care costs down.

Understand how your health plan works.
Know the deductibles, co-payments, and other out-of-pocket costs you are responsible for paying before you use medical products or services or get a prescription filled.

Use in-network providers. Participating providers (doctors, hospitals, and other providers in your plan’s network) generally charge discounted rates for plan members.

Look into freestanding surgical and diagnostic centers. If you need surgery, you might save money by having it performed at an ambulatory surgical center. But before you go, make sure the facility is in your plan’s network and that your plan’s benefits cover the service. And as always, talk to your doctor to be sure this course of action is appropriate for you.

Ask your doctor about home testing and monitoring devices.
Home tests for blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions can help ensure you are following your doctor’s orders and that prescribed treatments are working. Check with your doctor to be sure in-home testing is appropriate, report your results regularly, and call your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

Only go to the hospital emergency room for true emergencies.
If you need medical care when your regular doctor is not available, think about going to an urgent care center rather than a hospital emergency room. Call your plan’s health hotline, if available, to get advice on how, when, and where to seek care in a non-emergency situation.

Carefully check all medical bills. Insurance companies and hospitals are not immune from making billing errors. Insurers often miscalculate the family deductible, so keep a careful tally of individual as well as total family payments to be sure you don’t pay too much.

Use any additional programs or discounts provided by your employer or health plan.
Many health plans provide access to free disease management programs for chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as complementary programs that are designed to prevent illness and lower health costs over the long run, such as smoking cessation and weight loss programs, or discounts on fitness clubs.

Live a healthy lifestyle. Healthy habits like exercising regularly, eating well, and not smoking can increase your stamina, lighten your mood, and lower your risk for certain diseases. Aside from the physical and psychological benefits, healthy living can also offer financial rewards.

Make careful decisions about prescription drugs. They are the fastest rising area of health care costs and one of the biggest reasons behind dramatic increases in health care costs nationwide. Use generic drugs whenever possible, even for over-the-counter medications.

  • Know how your drug plan works. Check your copayments and know the maximum amount your plan will pay for in one year. Find out if your plan has a formulary (a list of preferred drugs they will cover).
  • Use a mail order pharmacy if one is available. You might save 10 – 15 percent.
  • Consider pill-splitting. Some medications can be obtained at double the prescribed dose, and then split in half. Talk to your doctor first.
  • Look into manufacturer aid programs. All require your doctor to apply for you.

Use a health care spending account to pay for medical expenses with pre-tax money.

Content courtesy of Strategic Benefits, Boise, ID