The Fine Print
Are you overlooking potential savings in the details of your monthly healthcare expenses?
You can get a pack of cigarettes for around $6 these days, while, without insurance, you could shell out more than $300 for a prescription aid to help you quit the habit.
There are many examples of disparity between things that make you unhealthy and things that make you unhappy (taco: $1, gym membership $40). With the healthcare reform debate raging on (and on, and on…) relief could be in sight, but until that day comes, rest assured there are some existing ways to save money on maintaining your health.
Generic prescriptions – You probably already know that generics are out there, but are you taking advantage? Is there a prescription in your regimen that can be substituted with a generic? Check this Prescription Drug Index, and, of course, talk to your doctor. If substitution is permissible, you may be able to get you medications for as little as $4 a month, or $10 for a 90-day supply, depending on the pharmacy.
Mail-order pharmacy – Consider using a mail-order pharmacy for maintenance prescriptions (like blood-pressure medication, synthetic thyroid hormone, and prescription allergy or heartburn relief). Ask your doctor to write the prescription to be dispensed in 90-day-supply amounts, because some mail-order pharmacies, such as Medco and Aetna Rx Home Delivery, offer significant savings for 90-day supplies. Some mail-order pharmacies require membership, but others are open to anyone. Protect yourself from illegitimate mail-order pharmacies by confirming the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies has awarded a VIPPS seal (Verified Pharmacy Practice Site). Also, beware of any site that offers to sell you prescription medication without a prescription.
Flexible Spending Account – You’re missing out big time if you’re not taking advantage of a healthcare flexible spending account, if your employer offers one. This benefit plan allows you to contribute pre-tax funds to an account from which you can draw to pay for medical needs, including co-pays, prescriptions and medical bills. Be very careful when deciding on how much you want to contribute annually, because once you’ve designated an amount, you can’t change it (except in cases of family-status change). And there’s also a “use-it-or-lose-it” caveat: If you haven’t spent your entire balance by the end of the calendar year, it disappears. Check your balance in December, and plan a visit to the pharmacy to spend whatever amount remains on healthcare items approved for FSA spending.
Make the most of health insurance – Since you’re forking over a healthy portion of your weekly paycheck to pay your health-insurance premiums, shouldn’t you be taking full advantage of all that your plan offers? We’re not just talking doctor’s visits and prescription co-pays here. Visit your insurer’s website, or contact a representative to find out of if they offer the following:
- Discounts on health and wellness products, like gym memberships
- Quitting assistance, including coaching, support groups and discounts on quit-aids
- Preventive screenings, including blood pressure and cholesterol, and vaccinations
- Classes or seminars on fitness, nutrition and other health-related topics
Read EOB statements – Those explanations of benefits statements might seem to like they’re written in Japanese, but take a close look at them when they come in the mail. Make sure any co-pay or co-insurance you paid is applied, and that all of the information, including provider and treatment, are correct. Confirm coverage and allowed amounts. If you have any questions, contact your insurance company right away. Those statements aren’t written in stone, and insurance companies do make mistakes in billing.