How can you combat the rising costs of healthcare? Begin by becoming a more informed consumer. The actual cost of medical services and procedures is staggering. And it’s no secret that each year healthcare costs continue to rise exponentially. Regardless of what medical plan you are enrolled in, learning to practice healthcare consumerism needs to become a natural part of your routine.
Take Great Care of Yourself
Becoming a better health care consumer starts with you. Think about how you take care of your body and mind, and how it affects your healthcare spending. Eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and reducing stress are all very important to your overall health and wellness in the short and long term. Be prepared to take care of yourself in the case of minor illnesses:
Keep a fully stocked first-aid or emergency kit in your home (aspirin, bandages, thermometer, heat/cold packs, antacids, allergy medications)
If your health insurance covers telemedicine, make sure you know how to access a virtual visit from your smartphone or computer. Virtual visits can save you significantly when dealing with minor illnesses.
Follow your doctor’s prescribed course of treatment. Keeping to the treatment can help you experience better medical outcomes.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Fine Print
Get to know what your health insurance truly covers, so you can make the most out of your spending each year. Once you have these down pat, it can also help you pinpoint billing errors, they do sometimes happen. Some main points to keep in mind:
What is my deductible? This is the amount you have to pay down first before your plan starts paying (partially or fully) for covered services.
What is my true out-of-pocket maximum? This is absolute highest amount you would be financially responsible for in a plan year.
What is my copay for regular office visit, virtual visit, urgent care, ER, etc.?
What are the copay costs for prescriptions at the generic, brand, and specialty level?
Does my plan cover mental health care? If so, how many visits per year?
Does my plan cover chiropractic care? If so, how many visits per year?
Do I need a referral to see a specialist?
Choose the Right Provider
Don’t wait until you really need a doctor to choose your primary care physician. Take time when you’re healthy to research providers, and become comfortable with them and their staff. You’ll want to ask:
Is this provider well trained and experienced?
Will this provider be available when needed?
What visits will my insurance cover?
Am I comfortable with him or her?
Get the Most from Your Appointments
Make sure you have all the information ready for your new patient paperwork (or fill it out in advance)
- Social Security Number
- Emergency Contact
- Family Medical History
- Personal Medical History
Bring an updated list of current medications
Bring current insurance ID card, and form of identification
Give accurate and relevant information the more detail you can share, the better treatment you will receive
State your main concern first then, describe your symptoms and other concerns
ASK QUESTIONS. You are not bothering your doctor by asking for clarification or reason for their diagnosis, treatment, prescription, etc.
Schedule follow-up appointment (if necessary)
Will you need to call in for any test results?
If you have side effects from a newly prescribed treatment, who should you contact and how?
Do you need a referral for a specialist?
At the Pharmacy
Verify if there is a generic available for your prescription, some health plans will automatically prompt the pharmacy to fill generics when available, but not in all cases. Generic drugs contain the same active ingredients as name brands and are subject to the same rigid Federal Drug Administration (FDA) standards for quality, strength and purity.
Shop for Special Testing and Treatments
Ask where your lab work is being tested, and if it can be sent to a national lab, usually at a lesser cost than being processed by local labs
For CT Scans and MRIs, independent radiology centers are usually less expensive than hospitals.
Some procedures like colonoscopies or minor outpatient surgeries can be performed at free-standing outpatient surgery clinics instead of the hospital for less money.
By adopting a consumer-minded approach to your healthcare, you are more inclined to think through quality, costs, and overall value. Finding the best providers and treatment for the best cost is ultimately the best for you and your wallet.
Employers, want to send this helpful guide to your employees? Download our PDF version below to use as a printout, on your company intranet, or in an educational email. For more help educating your workforce on healthcare costs, contact us today!