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Tips to Maximize Your Benefits & Healthcare Dollars

You’ve no doubt noticed that each year, your health care costs go up. This continuing trend can significantly impact your budget. While it’s difficult to control all the factors that contribute to rising health care costs, stretching your health care dollars is easier than you think by implementing the tips below.

  1. First and foremost, understand how your health plan works. You need to know what is and what is not covered, what procedures you need to follow to ensure your claims are paid, and which providers and facilities to use to get the most cost-effective care.
  2. Take advantage of no-cost care- most health plans, even high deductible plans, are required to cover annual physicals and well visits at no cost. Make sure to utilize network providers.
  3. Virtual visits, primary care or minute clinics, urgent care and emergency room in that order! Many insurers now provide no or low-cost virtual visits included in your health plan or your employer may provide a standalone plan.
  4. Do you have high pharmacy costs? use http://www.goodrx.com to research prescription costs and other alternatives. Many drug makers offer coupons to offset copays and out of pocket costs. Goodrx.com does all of the research for you.
  5. Use a mail order pharmacy if one is available. Ordering prescriptions by mail can save 10–15 percent and is ideal for patients who take medication on an ongoing basis and can place orders in advance.
  6. Negotiate! If you owe a large bill, call the hospital and see if they will reduce your costs. It doesn’t hurt to ask and you could save 20% or more. Many providers can also help you apply for financial assistance.
  7. Look into freestanding surgical and diagnostic centers.– call around for costs for items like MRI, CT Scans, etc. The price differences can be $100s to $1000s of dollars. If you need surgery, you might save money by having it performed at an ambulatory surgical center (a clinic that is not associated with a hospital.) These sites usually charge less than hospitals or their outpatient surgical centers. Freestanding diagnostic centers are also available and tend to charge less for certain tests like MRIs, CAT scans, X-rays and bone density scans. But before you go, make sure the facility is in your plan’s network and that your plan’s benefits cover the service. As always, talk to your doctor to be sure this course of action is appropriate for you.
  8. Save money on taxes by maximizing your HSA contributions- the money you contribute is tax advantaged. In 2018 the family contribution limit is $6,900.
  9. Carefully check all medical bills. Insurance companies and hospitals are not exempt 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 overpay. If you have a hospital stay, try to keep a log of all the services, medications and supplies you are given, so when you get a bill you can be sure you were not charged for procedures you didn’t have or items you didn’t use. Ask for an itemized bill.

Health care costs are tied directly to utilization; when you use your health plan more, there are more claims. And the higher the claims, the more you and your employer must contribute to pay for these claims. Don’t forget that the most cost-effective way to reduce the cost of healthcare is to make better decisions about the way you live, including the way you eat, exercise and spend your health care dollars.

Published by:

Joe Malzacher
Benefits and Retirement Plan Advisor
Montoya & Associates
jmalzacher@montoyaassociates.com

 

 

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