October is Health Literacy Month. Part of being health literate is understanding how your insurance coverage works. Being an educated consumer gives you control and power over your benefits. Today we are talking about ways to be a smarter health insurance consumer.
The way we purchase health care is unlike most other purchases we make. Many Americans will hunt for a coupon that saves them 50 cents at the local supermarket. However, when it comes to health care—a far more complex and expensive service—we rarely ask questions or consider all the options that could save us time and money.
Learn to shop for value when it comes to health care. With little effort, you can save thousands of dollars on your medical bills.
- Let’s make a deal. Ask your doctor, hospital or dentist if they will accept less. Studies show that the majority of individuals who bargain succeed.
- Know how much it costs. You will be better armed to negotiate discounts when you know the real costs of care. You can find rates on the websites of large insurers like UHC, Cigna and Aetna.
- Pay in cash. You can routinely save up to 10 percent on your bill by paying in cash up front, and often much more than that. Doctors lose thousands of dollars every year on credit card processing fees, unpaid bills and collection fees.
- Look at your bill closely. You will often find mistakes. Keep track of your visits, tests and medications, and compare them against your bills. Request a corrected bill if you find an error and notify your insurance company.
- Follow instructions. Follow your health care provider’s instructions for medications. Most medications work most effectively when they are used according to your doctor’s instructions. Ignoring instructions could result in additional prescription costs, extra trips to the doctor or even hospitalization.
- Visit a retail health clinic. Retail health clinics are growing in number. They are popping up in high-traffic retail outlets in metropolitan areas around the country. While these clinics lack the personal nature of seeing a family physician who knows your complete medical history, they offer convenience and low prices.
- Stay in-network. Your medical costs can increase greatly when you visit a provider who is not in your plan’s network. Make sure your primary care doctor and any specialists you may need to see are in your network whenever possible.
- It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you must see a specialist who isn’t within your network, call your insurance company’s pre-certification department and explain why you must use an out-of-network specialist. You can often get your insurance company to agree to pay in-network rates in order to avoid the expensive appeal process. If that doesn’t work, ask your specialist to accept the in-network rate.
- Understand what treatment your plan covers. Are you paying for chiropractic care, massage therapy or acupuncture? Check your insurance company’s website or call their customer service line to make sure you aren’t needlessly paying for health care that is covered by your insurance.
- Stay insured. Despite its costs and limitations, health insurance offers you significant discounts on most health care services, as well as protection from astronomical health costs, should you or a dependent suffer a major health event. If you lose your employer-based health insurance, understand your options for retaining health coverage. First, you may be able to extend your current policy through COBRA, which allows you to keep your current coverage for up to 18 months by taking over the employer’s portion of the premiums. Secondly, you may become eligible to enroll in an individual health plan through the Marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which carries the possibility of several discounts depending on your income.
AUI has a number of resources to help you be a more educated insurance consumer including blog resources, webinar resources, and AUI University. To learn more about all of the ways we can help you, please contact us!