Save money on health care

Open enrollment season for choosing  your health insurance is here.

Choosing a plan is an important decision for the next year. Once you have chosen a plan, understanding how to get the best value out of your health insurance benefits can save you a lot of money throughout the year.

Here are some basic ideas to help you save on health care costs, no matter  what type of insurance plan you have.

Use in-network doctors and providers

This includes the hospital and clinics,  as well. Most plans have a set list of in-network providers and facilities that they negotiate with to get better savings. If you use a provider that is not in-network, there may be a penalty  or the service may not be covered at all.

Take advantage of wellness benefits

Health Care Reform mandates that certain preventive screenings and tests be covered by the medical plan at no cost to you. Staying healthy is one of the best ways to save money on medical care. Preventive checkups  can spot something early when it’s easier to treat and will not only cost you less, but could save your life!

Pre-approve your medical procedures

Most insurance companies require  you to get approval — pre-authorize  — certain medical procedures  and/or hospital stays. If you do not, you may have to pay a penalty or the procedure/stay could be denied from coverage all together.

Ask questions

While it may make you uncomfortable,  ask your doctor questions about the tests and procedures they would like you to have. Know what your condition  is, and what the test or procedure’s  purpose is. Ask if there are any other choices to keep in mind before a having a procedure, undergoing surgery or taking a medication.

Prescription drug savings

The cost of medications is going up each year. But, taking your meds as prescribed is very important to helping you maintain your health. To save money on the medications you do take, ask your doctor if there are any generic medications you can take or natural options that may be just as effective for your condition. Many pharmacies have a $4 generic drug program for many of the common drugs used.

Don’t pay the bill until you get your statement from your health Insurance company

Your health insurance company has negotiated discounts with the innetwork  providers and facilities. If you pay before your bills have been processed through your health insurance  plan, you won’t get the discounts.  Make sure you only pay for the “Patient Responsibility” part of the bill. It should match what is on your EOB.

Health Cost Transparency tools

Today, there are many resources on the internet that can help you understand  the approximate cost and quality of a variety of procedures or medications. Some of the sites with good cost/quality information include,, www.consumer and www.wipricepoint .org. Your own health insurance company  may also have a tool to help you understand the costs and quality measures of your treatment before you have it done.

Making sure you understand your health insurance and how it works can help you stay healthy not only physically, but financially, as well.

Sherri L. Samuels-Fuerst works in employee benefits and is a member of the HSC2020 SCAN Coalition.