budget talk

The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Making the Most of Your Health Care Coverage

It was one of the issues during the recent election season and for good reason. Health care prices are skyrocketing. Many employers are cutting back on the insurance coverage or making employees pay a bigger chunk of the bill. And even more common these days, lots of people are suddenly finding themselves unemployment and without affordable health insurance.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for Arthritis Today called Big Bills, Big Worries. I found lots of tips and hints about reducing some of the cost of things like doctor’s visits and prescriptions. As many of them didn’t find their way into that article, I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Read, Read, Read
When you’re thinking about signing up for a health care policy and even after you sign up, read through everything that’s given to you. I know some policies are the size of a novella, but the key to keeping your insurance on budget…and not having a nasty surprise when the bill arrive is to check what’s covered on your policy. Maybe they don’t pay for prescriptions. Maybe they don’t cover a problem connected to a previous injury. Read everything.

What’s Your Liability?
Another thing to definitely check out is the amount you’re actually going to be liable for. Is it the first $100, $1,000? Does the insurance company make you pay 20% of the bill even after you’ve met your deductable?

Go Generic
When doctors write a prescription, very few of them will tell you about the generic versions of that drug. If your doctor is one of them, then speak up and ask. There are some medications that don’t have a generic counterpart, but you can save yourself a ton of money by asking first. And don’t be afraid to ask for samples. If this particular medication isn’t going to be ongoing, a sample maybe all you need.

That’s How Much?
The price of some drugs can give you a bad case of sticker shock. If you can’t pay, many pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs to help patients get the medication for free or at least at a reduced rate. See who manufactures the drug, go online and check their Web site, or make a phone call to see if they offer such a program.

Speak Up
If you can’t afford to pay your bill, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. If you find yourself unable to pay for any service, be honest with the doctor’s office or hospital billing department. Never be embarrassed if you can’t pay your bill. More people are finding themselves in this dilemma and most of the time a payment plan can be worked out for you.

Check the Network
When I was interviewing people for my article, many told me they’d fallen into the trap of going outside the network that’s covered by their policy. Seeing a specialist that’s not on the approved provider list basically voids the insurance company’s responsibility to pay your bill. It’s almost like you break the rules, you pay. So don’t get caught out. Check your approved provider list before you make your appointment.

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