Seven Simple Ways to Stretch Your Health Care Dollars

By John Gerstner, VP, Insureous Health Solutions

Death and taxes aren’t the only things you can absolutely count on. Rising health care costs are just as certain. While none of us can control all the factors contributing to higher health care costs, keeping your costs down is easier than you may think. Follow these simple rules and you’ll get the most bang for your healthcare buck.

  1. Stay in Network. Always call ahead to make sure your provider is in your plan’s network. It assures your claim will be covered. Stray outside your network and you may wind up paying the entire bill.
  2. Know your plan. Spend some time reading through your plans summary of benefits so you’ll know what’s covered and what isn’t. Know your deductibles, copayments and other costs you must pay for services and prescriptions.
  3. Shop around. Costs for services such as labs, x-rays and minor procedures can vary tremendously. Even though your insurance may cover a big part of the cost, you’ll have to pay what insurance doesn’t. If you have a high-deductible plan, that could be a major hit on your budget.
  4. Use urgent care instead of the emergency room (unless it’s a true emergency). Avoiding ER saves money because the copayment is usually much lower, and you may get stuck with the entire bill if you use an emergency room for a non-emergency.
  5. Take advantage of all your benefits. Most insurance plans offer extras such as free annual physicals and other programs to help you stay healthy. Look for additions such as smoking cessation, weight loss and free health club memberships.
  6. Be careful about prescriptions. Prescription drugs are the fastest-rising money sink in health care. Don’t just accept a doctor’s prescription without looking at the maximum cost your plan will pay within a year. Remember there are ways to mitigate cost (e.g., check for pharmaceutical copay cards or assistance programs) Insureous can help with this. Use generic drugs whenever possible. Try shopping around for the best price and use mail-order delivery whenever available.
  7. Pay for your health care with pre-tax money. Use a Flexible spending account (FSA) or health saving account (HSA) to set aside money from your paycheck to pay for medical costs. Because you are paying with pre-tax funds you are getting a nice discount on your out-of-pocket medical expenditures. As an example, if you put $1,000 in your HSA account, and assuming you are in a 25% tax bracket, you would wind up saving $250 in taxes.

Of course, there’s one more obvious way to save on health care costs. Just make good decisions about how you live. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Rest assured; you can take that health care advice to the bank.