The health insurance landscape in the U.S. continues to present a significant challenge for most residents. Whether you have coverage provided through an employer-sponsored group plan or you purchase coverage individually, you’ve probably noticed a few constants in recent years – escalating premiums, higher deductibles and co-payments and more restrictive choices.
Plus the horde of prescription commercials which flood television airwaves and the ever-growing pop-up of new facilities in the neighborhood add new confusion and temptations.
What are we to do?
First, be informed. Be knowledgeable about your current health insurance plan’s structure. Which doctors and which facilities are ‘in network’? This has become a very important consideration in recent years, as insurance companies have narrowed ‘approved’ options within their respective network. If you visit a physician or facility out-of-network, you’ll likely need to shoulder a much larger portion of the cost. Or perhaps even all of it. Some health insurance plans no longer pay anything for out-of-network services.
Take advantage of wellness programs that may be offered through your employer or health care provider. These initiatives are typically designed to help you improve and maintain your health and many are available at little to no cost to you.
Consider the price of convenience. As an example, it’s after hours and your child is running a very high fever. Naturally, you’re concerned. Choosing to take your child to a free-standing emergency room vs an urgent care center may give you a huge surprise after the fact – plus a huge bill that’s fully your sole responsibility.
Freestanding emergency rooms look a lot like urgent care centers, but the costs and services can be drastically different. In general, consider an urgent care center as an after-hours extension of your primary care physician or for minor emergencies. Freestanding emergency rooms are best used for health conditions that require a high level of care. Urgent care centers will not have the word “emergency” in the name, while freestanding emergency rooms will. Choosing an urgent care center for everyday health concerns could save you hundreds of dollars.
Medications present another area with potential cost savings. Ask your physician if effective generic medications are available as a substitute for your ‘name brand’ prescriptions. If so, the cost savings may be substantial. Some name brand prescriptions may now be available over the counter, as their patent lock-up periods have expired. These types of savings add up.
In short, it pays to be ever vigilant over health care expenses. Long gone are the days when we needn’t worry about the details of our health insurance plan.
Do you need assistance in interpreting your plan’s coverage specifics or do you have questions about how health care expenses may impact your taxes? If so, give us a call. We’re here to help!
Image Credit — Wolfman-K