Health insurance is essential to protecting your health but the high cost of coverage may leave you feeling sick. Even after employers pick up a substantial amount of the cost, every year Americans spend thousands of dollars on healthcare while costs are continuing to rise. By taking certain steps, you can stretch your healthcare dollars and still receive the care you need to stay healthy.
- Understand How Your Health Plan Works
Review your plan to learn how to maximize your benefits. You need to know what is covered (and what is not!) and what procedures you need to follow to ensure your claims will get paid. Know what your copayment, coinsurance and deductible costs are before your visit.
Most health insurance plans cover more of your costs if you use their preferred or in-network doctors. If you visit an out-of-network doctor or medical facility, you’ll pay more and may end up being responsible for 100% of the bill. Use your insurer’s online tools to search for in-network providers.
- Choose the Right Places to Get Care
Running to the emergency room when you get sick after hours could drain your wallet. All too often, those suffering from minor illnesses or injuries visit the ER when they don’t need to. The ER should be your last resort — consider using more affordable options like telemedicine or an urgent care center instead. You can still get the care you require in off-hours without having to schedule an appointment.
If you need surgery, you may save money by having it done at an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) which is a modern healthcare facility focused on same-day surgical care, including diagnostic and preventive procedures. Typically, these centers charge less than a hospital.
- Use a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
Opening a HSA or an FSA is a handy way to save for medical expenses and reduce your taxable income. They are like personal savings accounts but the money in them is used to pay for health care expenses. HSAs are owned by you, earn interest, and can be transferred to a new employer. FSAs are owned by your employer, do not earn interest, and must be used within the calendar year.
- Ask Your Doctor About Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
RPM is the use of digital technologies to monitor and analyze medical and other health data from patients and electronically transmit this information to healthcare providers for assessment and, when necessary, recommendations and instructions. This type of monitoring is often used to manage high-risk patients, such as those with acute or chronic health conditions such as those with diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions.
- Use Your Preventive Care Benefits
Many health plans pay the full cost for important preventive care. These regular screenings, exams, and immunizations help detect or prevent diseases and medical problems early when they are easier to treat. Annual check-ups, mammograms (usually after the age of 40), flu shots and colonoscopies (usually 1 every 10 years after the age of 50) are examples of preventive care. These checks can save you a lot of money because they catch problems early.
Health insurance isn’t mandatory — there’s no law requiring you to buy it — but, health insurance is an important part of staying healthy, financially and physically. Since most people who don’t have insurance made that decision based on money instead of what is best for their health, they usually don’t have doctor appointments for the same reason – it’s too expensive. But skipping routine care can end up being more expensive than your premiums, especially if you have serious health issues that aren’t caught early. Think of it like care maintenance: regularly changing your oil might be a hassle but it is essential to prevent a major breakdown down the road.