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Let's Be Clear: Tips for Saving on Your Health Plan Year Round
Use doctors and medical facilities in your health plan’s network. These health care professionals usually offer discount rates to the plan’s customers. This means you will often have to pay less out of pocket. Most plans have a directory of in-network health care professionals online. Check before you go to avoid any surprises.
Go to the Right Place
When you need urgent care, you have choices. For less serious situations, you may not need to go to an emergency room. Ask your doctor ahead of time , before you need care, about care options. Urgent care centers or clinics can be a less expensive option.
Retail clinics based in department, drug or grocery stores, can offer quick and affordable access to care for common medical conditions.
You may be able to contact your physician online for information or help with routine, non-emergency situations. Online “visits” often cost much less than an office visit, and can save you time.
Manage Your Meds
Know what your health plan covers and how much your drugs will cost you out of pocket. That way you can talk with your doctor or pharmacist to find the least expensive effective option.
Use home delivery pharmacies. You can save as much as 33 percent, or $85 per year on your share of the cost, according to our data.
See if your plan provides online comparison pricing at different pharmacies. That way you can purchase your medication at the pharmacy that offers the best price.
Prescription pills often cost the same amount per pill whether the dose is 5mg or 10mg. If you are taking two 5mg pills of the same medicine per day, ask your doctor if one 10 mg pill will work.
Make a list of all of the medicines you are taking. Show it to your doctor at your next visit. Include over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements. You may find that you no longer need to take some of your medications.
If you are on Medicare, you are eligible for Medicare prescription drug coverage, regardless of your income, health status, or current prescription use. Medicare Prescription Drug Plans are offered by many private health insurers. They can be compared by visiting www.medicare.gov for more information.
Some health plans offer coupons to try generics or over-the-counter medications. Generics are usually just as effective as the brand name. Generics can save you up to 50 percent of the cost of a brand name drug. We estimate the average savings for a person on a maintenance medication can be $420 per medication per year.
Costs for scans such as MRIs or CT scans can vary up to $500 depending on where you get them. Some plans provide a list of these costs at various medical offices. Take some time to compare costs.
Grab the Phone before you Grab your Car Keys
There may be times when you can avoid the hassle and cost of an in-person doctor visit and still get the support you need:
Medication adjustments: If you are taking prescriptions and want to switch to home delivery or generic, ask you’re your doctor. Often your doctor will write and fax new prescriptions right to your local pharmacy and/or home delivery pharmacy. This saves you the time, energy and the money you’d spend on a scheduled office visit.
Lab follow-ups: Doctors are often willing to talk about results of common lab tests over the phone. An example would be a cholesterol screening. If the results are good, you may save yourself time and the cost of an office visit. If the results require more treatment, you can schedule an appointment as needed.
Find the "Hidden" Benefits
These programs can save you money and help you improve your health. Many health plans offer these value-added benefits.
Health and Wellness Discounts: Fitness club memberships, Weight loss programs, Chiropractic care, Massage therapy, quitting smoking, Eyewear
Free personalized Health Coaching: Nutritionists, fitness experts, Counselors (over the phone, sometimes at the workplace, or though self-paced online coaching programs
24-hour telephone support from nurses and other trained health experts.
Medication Coupons: Some health plans offer coupons for generics and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Generics usually work as well as a brand name drug and can save you up to 50 percent of the cost of a brand name drug. The average savings for a person on a regular medication is $420 per medicine per year, according to our data.
Employee Assistance Programs: Free, confidential counseling you access through your employer’s help-line. EAP counselors can help you cope with stress, control your weight and quit smoking. Plus they can help you find resources to help manage your finances, get answers to legal questions, find child and elder care and more.
Mental (Behavioral): Health Benefits Many health plans include coverage for professional counseling.
Opt-in or "Voluntary" Benefits: Many employer-sponsored group plans offer optional coverages, such as vision, dental, disability and life insurance. These benefits may be purchased, or you may be able to buy more of certain benefits for an added cost. A few examples are disability and life insurance. These “voluntary” benefits are often offered at a lower cost when purchased through your employer versus the open market. Some disability and life insurance plans include value-added programs like Will Preparation and Identify Theft Protection at no additional cost. Making use of these services can help save you time and money.
Sign up for your employer’s health or fitness programs: Many employers offer health programs at work. Some even offer you a financial or other incentive to take part.
If you smoke, quit: Many health plans offer a quit smoking program with free nicotine replacement medication. You may save thousands in future smoking-related health care costs. Think of all you’ll save from not buying tobacco!
Manage stress: More employers are offering employee assistance programs (EAPs) to help people manage stress. They’re usually free and always confidential. An EAP counselor can help you cope with stress and can direct you to resources for managing financial, legal and many other issues.
If you drink, moderate: Your EAP can be a resource to help you achieve this goal.