Thursday, November 19, 2015

TruStage Tips: Maximizing Your Healthcare Dollars

It’s no secret that healthcare costs are continuing to rise, despite the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March 2010. With health insurance now mandatory for nearly every American, it’s up to each of us to make the best decision possible regarding our own healthcare.

Whether you work for a credit union, you’re a member or you simply care about making the most of your hard-earned dollars, these six tips can help you get the most out of your healthcare dollars and cut your overall annual medical expenses.

1. Pick the right insurance plan and understand what it covers. 
When selecting a health plan, don’t automatically choose the one with the lowest monthly payment. Look for the plan that best aligns with your current doctors and medications, and factor in your average number of doctor visits per year. Once you’ve selected the best plan for you, learn as much as you can about it. This includes the copays, referral processes and deductibles, so you have no surprises when you see your doctor.

2. Use preventative healthcare. 
It might seem counterintuitive to go to the doctor to save money, but being proactive about your health can save you in the long run. Catching illness early during a routine visit can make a world of difference – for your health and your budget. And, under the ACA, the majority of preventative services must be 100% covered, so you shouldn’t encounter a copay or co-insurance expenses to meet your deductible for most of them.

3. Check your bills for errors. 
People make mistakes, and clinic employees are no exception. Thoroughly review your bills because something as simple as the incorrect billing code could result in a higher charge. If you find a mistake, call the billing department to resolve it.

4. Negotiate your bill. 
If you visit the hospital or have an expensive medical procedure, ask for an itemized bill. After reviewing it and ruling out errors, ask about paying the negotiated rate. This is the amount private insurance companies or Medicare/Medicaid have negotiated to pay for services, and it’s often much lower than the cost listed on your bill. You can also ask if there’s a cash discount for paying the entire cost at once, or see if the hospital will work with you to create a manageable payment plan.

5. Save the emergency room for true emergencies. 
If your condition isn’t life-threatening, avoid the emergency room. When possible, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician instead. If that’s not possible, visit an urgent care facility as an alternative. Either are likely to cost you much less than the emergency room.

6. Shop around for medications. 
In many cases, a generic version of your name-brand prescription is available, and it will cost you a lot less. Medication prices can also range significantly from store to store, so shop around for the best price and look online for coupons and store discount cards that can make a big difference to your prescription budget over time.

If you’re currently seeking health insurance, it’s important to note that there are financial aid opportunities out there as well. For example, 75 percent of GoHealth insurance applicants qualify for financial help. Visit now through January 31, 2016 to learn more.