(StatePoint) When it comes to health care, most Americans are caught between rising insurance prices and the spiraling costs of doctor’s visits and prescription drugs.
The cost to provide health insurance to the typical family rose to $13,770 in 2010, with the average worker’s share costing nearly $4,000, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This doesn’t include expenses to meet deductibles and other costs.
Many families are doing all they can to reduce health costs — from eating healthfully to exploring more affordable insurance plans to asking for generic prescriptions. More than ever, it’s important to be a savvy consumer when shopping for health care.
Here are some tips to help you spend less on health care:
• Live well: Eat nutritious and balanced meals, exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Quit smoking and don’t drink to excess.
• An ounce of prevention: Routine checkups with recommended exams can help spot minor issues before they become major problems. When selecting a health plan, learn whether it provides preventive benefits. Major medical plans now pay for many preventive services, but other types of insurance may not.
• Do your homework: When shopping for a health insurance plan, don’t just choose one with the lowest monthly premium. Ask about out-of-pocket expenses, including deductibles, co-pays and prescription costs. Websites like www.assuranthealth.com can help you evaluate tradeoffs between coverage options and out-of-pocket costs.
“With the rising cost of health care, individuals want more choice in how they access the health care system,” says Scott Krienke, senior vice president of product and marketing at Assurant Health. “It’s important to understand all options that are available to find the best health plan for your needs.”
• Pay only for what you need: Traditional major medical insurance offers coverage against catastrophic illness; however, many plans come with high premiums and deductibles. Fixed-benefit plans typically offer more affordable premiums and pay a set cash amount that can be used for everyday expenses like doctor visits and prescriptions. For example, Assurant Health Access offers cash benefits for preventive care and unexpected medical costs like inpatient hospitalization and surgeries. Unlike traditional plans, there are no deductibles so benefits start right away.
• Save on prescriptions. Ask for generic drugs or substitutions instead of brand names. Consider ordering prescriptions you take regularly from a reputable online pharmaceutical benefit manager and take advantage of bulk discounts.
• Phone ahead: Before making appointments, call your carrier to learn which doctors and hospitals are in your network. Ask whether an independent health care advocate, such as Patient Care, is available to help you compare cost and quality information. Some carriers offer this service at no extra cost.
• Don’t forget dental: If you are purchasing medical insurance, chances are you also need a dental plan. Some carriers offer discounts if you purchase them together.
Taking these simple steps can help reduce your health care expenses and ensure you’ve made decisions that are right for your family.
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