With health care costs continually on the rise, health insurance has become an indispensable asset for those of us who don’t want to choose between bankruptcy and not taking care of a health issue. Health insurance plans, both private and employer-sponsored, already play a huge part in keeping Americans’ health care costs at reasonably manageable levels.

However, many Americans still pay more than they have to when it comes to their medical expenses. Moreover, most never realize it. If taking a few simple steps to cut your health care spending sounds like a promising idea to you, it’s time to take a closer look at your health care habits. By familiarizing yourself with your health insurance plan and fine-tuning your own personal practices, you can trim your medical expenses significantly.

Follow your plan. Many patients find themselves footing their own medical bills after visits to doctors who are not part of their health plan’s provider network. It pays to know who’s in your insurer’s network of physicians and hospitals so you can ensure that your claims won’t be rejected upon submission, or paid at a lower level of benefit than is provided for in-network care. Stay within your health plan’s network whenever possible and plan ahead for emergencies to dodge hefty hospital copays.

Besides familiarizing yourself with your health plan’s network, make sure that you follow whatever rules may pertain to your particular insurance company or policy structure. As these rules are often complex, it’s best to check with your insurer or broker if you have a question about your coverage. Some insurance structures, such as health maintenance organizations (HMOs), will only cover visits to specialists if your primary care physician first refers you to them. While others, such as preferred provider organizations (PPOs), may provide some level of reimbursement for visits to out-of-network doctors, you will pay a larger portion of the bill than if you had used an in-network provider.

Raise your deductible, lower your premiums. This simple strategy is good advice for most types of coverage, from auto to health insurance. Many people who rarely visit hospitals pay high premiums just to keep their copays down. If you are in good health and don’t expect to make frequent physician visits above and beyond your regular checkups, you’re probably spending more on higher monthly premiums than you would be saving with a lower copay. Consider accepting a higher deductible to save money on your monthly premiums.

Watch your health. Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body and the mind, but few consider just how good it is for the bank account. While it seems simple, healthy living is one of the best financial habits that a health insurance buyer can practice. Keeping yourself in good health is a simple strategy that not only makes you feel better, but also saves you money by keeping you out of the doctor’s office. Research consistently shows that people who stay active and watch what they eat not only live longer, healthier lives, but also spend a fraction of what less healthy individuals pay for health care. Following a physician-approved exercise plan and quitting unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive drinking can pay off in lower medical expenses and less-frequent doctor visits.
While maintaining a quality health insurance plan is a must, that shouldn’t be the bottom line where cost-cutting is concerned. There are plenty of additional opportunities to trim the fat from your health care expenses. By keeping a close eye on your health care habits, you can dodge extra costs, high payments and unnecessary trips to the hospital, and save that cash for your own use. After all, medicine should be about checkups, not check-writing.

For more information on cutting your health care cost, please contact our Broker, Beth Cosker at bcosker@cgahealthbenefits.com or 206.985.2525.