7 Ways to Save on Health Care
7 Ways to Save $$$Your Savings, Decoded
Use this key to see how much moola these strategies could net you. Ca-ching!
$ You save < $100
$$ You save $100 to $1,000
$$$ You save > $1,000Double-check your insurance.
Never assume that your doctor is still in your insurance network. Physicians typically reevaluate their list of accepted plans at least annually, so ask each time you book an appointment. If your MD now works with your plan on an out-of-network basis, her services will often be covered at a much lower rate or not at all. Seeing another doc in the same practice? Even if the facility accepts your insurance, he might not. The same goes for referrals.
SAVINGS: $$$Know how to haggle.
Don't worry -- you don't have to go all swap meet at your next appointment. It's about negotiating. A 2005 survey found that 70 percent of those who attempted to lower their hospital bills were successful. Sherri Dumford, the director of operations for the Healthcare Billing and Management Association, says that the uninsured and those with a recent financial hardship probably have the most luck. Use healthcarebluebook.com to find the fair price, or check hospitalcompare.hhs.gov to see what Medicare will cover, then call the billing manager and offer that amount. If you can pay cash up front, many providers will slash prices by as much as half, according to the Consumers Union. Also, if you're undergoing several procedures at once -- say, having your tonsils and adenoids removed -- ask for a discount. Insurance companies pay a reduced amount for each procedure after the first one, and you should too.
SAVINGS: $ to $$$Catch errors.
About 80 percent of medical bills contain mistakes -- to the tune of $10 billion annually, according to Medical Billing Advocates of America. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a personal assistant to eyeball each bill and check for goofs? Now you do. Simplee.com is a free online tool that tracks what you spend on health care. It links your insurance plans (health, vision, dental) and health-spending accounts so they are displayed on one dashboard. A user-friendly breakdown of each bill shows what insurance covers and what you owe, and the site examines each claim to identify errors, such as duplicate charges, billing for a service that should be free, or being billed for an out-of-network provider when you shouldn't be.
SAVINGS: $$Get an agent.
Employer plans usually provide the best value, but it's possible to do better on the individual market if you don't have a preexisting condition. "In some cases, you can save if you're willing to disclose your medical history," says Bruce D. Benton, the president of the National Association of Health Underwriters. Find a health insurance agent at nahu.org; because their fees are paid by insurance companies, it won't cost you anything out of pocket. You also have access to more plans, so you can tailor your coverage. Skip benefits you don't need, such as eyeglasses and maternity, and consider an inexpensive, high-deductible plan if you're rarely sick.
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