I’ve had the pleasure of a front-row seat to the ever-changing environment of healthcare as an insurance advisor the last 12 years. These changes not only include the rising cost of health insurance premiums but prescriptions and out-of-pocket copays/deductibles.
Since I am self-employed, I relate to the “typical” shopper of health insurance—no employer to offer an insurance plan, generally healthy, no interest in paying a high price for something I “hope” to not use, seeking low-cost options with appropriate risk, and hopeful that whatever plan I choose covers a catastrophic event.
In this changing climate, I’ve found some ways to minimize out-of-pocket medical costs. These changes may not only affect YOUR budget but if enough people adopt this perspective toward insurance, I believe these practices will set a trend for prices to finally fall.
- Teledoc: If you’re covered by any insurance plan today, “teledoc” or “telemedicine” is normally offered. This option of speaking to a licensed doctor by web, phone or mobile app is a win-win, but you typically have to enroll with your plan to get it started. Once set up, you can log-in and chat with a doctor or NP (nurse practitioner) from home or your cell phone. Starting at a $0 copay, typically “teledoc” is the same co-pay as a routine office visit ($20 for example). ADDITIONAL BONUS … no “germ-filled” office to visit!
- GoodRx: This is a free app or website offering coupons for prescriptions, but cannot be combined with insurance. In my experience, some prescriptions are actually cheaper when paid outright than billed to insurance. This app is a great resource when searching for a drug in a given zip code to compare retail costs at different pharmacies.
- Consider a high deductible: I’ve seen a trend for more “up-front” benefits and lower deductibles in the last four years perhaps as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. Health insurance was primarily created for catastrophic needs. While not for everyone, if you’re healthy and can come up with $5000 in a year to cover a major event, consider saving those extra premium dollars each month and paying out-of-pocket for most services and prescriptions. You may save more money in the end.
- Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle: While it seems like a no-brainer, there is nothing greater for your health than dropping unnecessary weight and getting in better physical shape. Even small changes can lead to a reduction in sick visits and fewer prescriptions. This all adds up to more money in your pocket! Instead of finding insurance to pay for more of your list of prescriptions, find ways to reduce the list altogether with your doctor’s help! Other ways to a healthier YOU is reducing STRESS, being more INTENTIONAL with sleep, SOCIAL interaction with close friends, and fewer days booked on the calendar with back-to-back appointments. Make time for YOU.
- Ask Questions: More and more providers are now offering pricing information to patients. Consider calling around to check competitor pricing for the service you need.
- Know your Coverage: This is where a healthcare advisor can offer practical help. I always explain to clients that they won’t have the power to USE their plan if they don’t understand the plan. A healthcare advisor can walk you through the details of your specific coverage any time of year. Some plans have “preferred” networks and pharmacies, so you want to make sure you’re not stepping outside of that list and paying more than needed. Knowing your plan protects you from surprises and allows freedom to plan your budget accordingly.
These six simple steps, even if you start with just one, can reap great savings on healthcare costs!