Wondering why 2pac is the image for this post? Read on....
Are you experiencing annual enrollment for health insurance right about now? Many are, so last week, we started this series on tips for saving on healthcare costs!
Click here to read the intro and the 3 tips from our first post in this series!
Here’s 3 more tips….
4. Know the coverage and benefits of your plan
The average American (that’s you and me) doesn’t understand what’s in their plan or all the insurance-speak! In-network vs. out-of-network provider, the deductible amount or how to meet it, what’s covered and what isn’t, PPO/HMO/CDHP/HDHP/HRA/FSA/HSA, etc., etc.! With such a high expense line on your monthly budget, it’s important to understand how it works. Here’s some ideas for getting answers: visit your insurer’s website or call the customer service line, ask a more informed friend at our workplace, ask a friend who’s “in the industry” (nurse, doctor, your insurance salesperson), or ask someone in your company’s HR department.
5. Ask questions!
I don't quote Tupak Shakur very often (OK, never. But California Love - come on! That's art!). Anywhoo, there's a lot of wisdom in this one: "Even the genius asks questions." Are you embarrassed to ask clarifying questions or second-guess your doctor? Most of us are…after all, this is a person who spent $200,000 and 12 years of their life to learn medicine. But, that’s why it’s called a medical “practice” – they can’t possibly know all the answers about every person that comes into their waiting room. You know you, so asking questions is the right thing to do. Here’s one reason that might give you more confidence: it’s estimated that 30% of healthcare spending is either unnecessary, wasteful or both! You can’t really blame the poor docs – they’re faced with malpractice lawsuits on a daily basis, so they’re just covering their bases.
Second opinions are also a great idea when faced with a diagnosis that isn’t sitting well with your soul. A few years ago, my husband went to a new dentist who had quite the palatial building. They put him right him into one of their fancy schmancy chairs and showed him the inside of his mouth with a high-tech camera. The diagnosis? All his fillings were old and needed to be replaced to the tune of $10,000. Who wouldn’t be terrified if faced with a ginormous tour of their mouth? I’m guessing every one of us would be on board with a complete overhaul (it’s scary in there)! They proceeded to usher him into the Financing wing where they offered to “help” him pay for the procedures. He got a second opinion from a highly experienced, more “conservative” dentist who said the fillings had many years of life and suggested handling them on a one-on-one basis, as needed.
It’s OK to get second opinions and ask questions. Do you really need that new drug, procedure, test? And what will happen if I don’t follow the suggested plan?
6. How much is it?
One of the reasons we’re bad healthcare consumers is because we never know how much something is going to cost until AFTER it’s done. It’s like shopping in a department store with no price tags! You take a blouse home and then get a $200 bill in the mail 3 months later. Now, you’ve worn it and have to pay for it.
Like anything, there are widely varying costs depending on where you buy! Consider popcorn: $6 for a bag at the theatre, $3 at a convenience store, $.50 for a name brand and $.20 for a store brand at the grocery store!
Here’s a medical example: there are different ways to visit with a doctor for common maladies – typical costs from lowest to highest:
$10/month Telephone/Video consultation (unlimited visits for your family and the ability to get a prescription, if needed. Learn more at www.freshbenies.com/service/teladoc)
$100 Visit with your local doctor
$150 Urgent Care Center
$750 Emergency Room visit
Obviously, you should avoid the ER unless it is a true emergency and don’t attempt a telephone/video consult if you have a severed arm!
Request pricing BEFORE you have the procedure, get the MRI/CT scan, start on the new drug, etc. And, sometimes your doctor makes a commish for referring you to a specific mode of treatment, so always ask if there’s a less expensive version or location.
Bottom line: treat your medical spending like any other purchase you make as an American consumer!