A typical American family of four covered by an employer-sponsored health plan spends more than $24,000 per year on health care. That’s a lot of money – especially when tacked on top of all our other life expenses.
Blue Cross has a variety of programs aimed to cut health care costs, which have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in Michigan. But you have the power to save more. Here are six tips to cut down on your personal health care costs.
Buy generic drugs: Generic drugs are held to the same federal Food and Drug Administration standards for safety and performance as the brand names, yet can sell for 30-80 percent less. An easy way to cut costs is simply by asking your pharmacist about generic drugs. How much could you save on your prescription? Use our Generic Drugs Calculator to find out.
Stay in-network: If you visit a doctor or hospital that is part of your insurance company’s network, you’ll get your health care at lower prices. Why? In-network doctors will give you a discount based on your insurer’s negotiated rate with that doctor. Doctors who are not in your health plan network do not have the same discount, so you are responsible for any additional cost difference. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has the largest network of doctors and hospitals in the state. Use our Find a Doctor feature to find an in-network doctor near you.
Read your Explanation of Benefit statement: We’ve all gotten that piece of mail with big letters stating, “This is not a bill.” This paper is called an Explanation of Benefit (EOB) statement, and it’s important to read through it. Incorrect information on your EOB can indicate fraud, especially if the date is wrong or you see a service listed that you didn’t get. If you see anything suspicious, report it. Otherwise you could be responsible for charges you shouldn’t have to pay.
Know the difference between high/low deductible plans: A deductible is the amount an individual will pay out-of-pocket for health care before insurance begins contributing to the bill. A high deductible plan has a low monthly premium but higher out-of-pocket costs. A low deductible plan has a higher monthly premium but lower out-of-pocket costs. Paying more upfront offers expansive coverage with predictable pricing.
Take advantage of preventive benefits: We know to visit a doctor when we’re sick, but we often forget to go when we’re healthy. Regular checkups and health screenings help catch potential health problems early on when they can be prevented or easily treated. This can prevent serious and very costly medical conditions down the road.
Avoid emergency room (ER) visits unless necessary: Using the ER for situations other than an emergency could mean a long wait, added costs and the risk of additional diagnostic testing for you or a family member. Learn the “where of care-” when you should go to the doctor vs. your local urgent care center vs. the emergency room. Preparing ahead of time can ensure you’re ready for the next time an illness or injury strikes.
Use price transparency tools: Due to federal health care reforms, individuals have more access to information about the cost of health care services. When planning for a major medical expense, like an MRI or surgery, the service location can affect the pricing. Consult with the insurance company and prospective institutions to gain cost estimates. Certain organizations have online tools available for members to compare doctors and facilities.
Live a healthy lifestyle: The best way to cut down health care costs? Live a healthy lifestyle. Stay active. Adopt a well-balanced diet. Cut out tobacco. Manage stress. Healthy behaviors like these have a chain reaction that leads all the way back to your wallet.
Need a little motivation? HealthyMe is a health and wellness community that empowers Michigan residents to live a healthier life. By signing up, you’ll get access to personalized content, a health goal tracker and a like-mind community for added support.
Photo Credit: Adrian Clark