Navigating the complex, often baffling world of medical insurance is no easy task. Sometimes going through insurance can save you a bundle, yet there are times when it pays to pay out of pocket. American families of four spend an average of $3,470 in out of pocket expenses each year, so let’s have a look at some tips that might help you limit these costly expenditures.
Study Your Health Insurance
Before you seek medical treatment, it’s important to know what your plan does and does not cover. What’s your co-pay for doctor visits or urgent care? How much would you be on the hook for if you had to go to the emergency room? What’s the maximum amount you’d be liable for in regard to out of pocket expenses? Is your doctor in your network?
Ask your provider to break down the details of your plan so you can make informed decisions regarding treatments. The more you know about your coverage, the more you can plan (and hopefully save) accordingly. If you rely on Medicare, familiarize yourself with what out of pocket expenses you might liable for.
If you have coverage through healthcare.gov, you might be eligible to save on out of pocket expenses. If you have a Silver plan, you can get cost-sharing reductions. You can check here to see if you might qualify for savings.
Talk to Your Doctor About Out of Pocket Expenses
We’ve talked before about the importance of being prepared for your doctor visits. In addition to being proactive and informed about your treatment plan, you should do the same for medical expenses.
You may feel that asking your doctor about health care costs is an out-of-bounds topic, or perhaps you feel what little face-time you have with your doc should be spent strictly discussing your health. But if your doctor has your best interests in mind (which s/he should), they should be willing to help you strategize to reduce your out of pocket expenses. Doctors might be able to switch you over to cheaper medications or less expensive tests; they can reschedule treatments to make sure you don’t blow through your deductible.
Your pharmacist should also be able to help you find more affordable alternative medicines.
Shop Around, and Negotiate
When it comes to medications, medical facilities, insurance policies, and procedures, you have options. There is even an increasing availability of ‘telemedicine,’ or medical consultations through video, text, or email. Prices may vary wildly, so be sure to shop around before you make a decision.
When it comes to payments, you may have room to haggle. Before opting for a procedure or test, be sure to ask what it will cost beforehand. Also ask if they offer discounts for cash payments (many folks do).
Once you receive your bill, keep in mind that insurance companies make mistakes all the time and miss items they should have covered. Feel free to steel your nerves, prepare for battle, and call the insurance company to negotiate a lower price. You just might end up with a huge reduction in your out of pocket expenses.
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