How to Save Money When Choosing Your Health-Care Coverage

Questions and suggestions can help you make more informed choices, and maybe even save money.

Open enrollment is a once-a-year opportunity to pick a health benefits plan that fits your family’s needs. Your health, and the health of your loved ones is precious, so this is one of the most important decisions you can make each year.

The majority of Americans, more than 175 million, have employer-provided coverage, according to the annual report on health insurance coverage from the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, no matter how you obtain health coverage, it’s important to review your options and ask questions. 

People who review their health-plan options may find ways to save money– whether it’s through selecting a plan that will cover more of their expected health costs for a major event (such as surgery or having a baby), reviewing which doctors are in the plan’s care provider network or evaluating prescription drug coverage.

Each family has unique health needs – there is no one-size-fits-all approach to selecting a health plan. The following questions and suggestions can help you make more informed choices, and maybe even save money, when choosing a plan for your family.

  • Do any of your family members take medications regularly? If so, evaluate prescription drug coverage for each plan offering and ensure you’ll have access to your family’s prescription drugs. Remember costs can change from year to year, so check that you’ll continue to have coverage of your drugs at a cost you can afford. Your plan’s prescription drug list contains the most commonly prescribed medications on your pharmacy plan. Drugs are listed by common categories or classes and placed in tiers that represent the cost you pay.
  • Do any of your family members see doctors regularly? If so, make sure those doctors are in the health plan’s care provider network.
  • Are you planning to undergo surgery or have a baby? If so, make sure your doctors and hospital are in-network.
  • Would virtual visits/telehealth be of value to you and your family? If so, look for a plan that offers this benefit. Virtual visits are for non-emergency, minor medical conditions. They can be a huge family time-saver for people who may have a bladder or urinary tract infection, a respiratory or sinus infection, a rash, stomachache or diarrhea, or a migraine headache. Some care providers offer telehealth visits for ongoing help for chronic conditions or behavioral health issues.
  • Don’t forget about “specialty” benefits. Specialty benefits, such as dental, vision, accident or critical-illness insurance plans, are often lower-cost options that can protect you and your family from head to toe. Research shows a connection between oral health and overall health, so adding a dental plan may help prevent major medical problems. A vision plan may offer eye exams that can identify chronic conditions like diabetes, and offer reduced pricing on frames and lenses. Critical-illness plans can provide important financial benefits for unexpected health situations.
  • Take advantage of wellness programs offered by your employer, especially those that reward you. Some health plans, including UnitedHealthcare, offer wellness programs for employers that enable their employees to earn financial incentives, such as lower premium costs or deductible credits, for completing health assessments, signing up for a health coaching program, lowering  cholesterol, going to a gym or even using a fitness tracker to monitor daily walking patterns (e.g. UHC Motion).

 Marc Neely is the CEO of UnitedHealthcare of Colorado and Wyoming

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