Over the last 10 years, out-of-pocket health care costs for Americans have more than doubled, with medical expenses now accounting for 8 percent of annual household spending, according to the Consumer Expenditure Figures.
April is National Financial Literacy Month, an ideal time for consumers to take steps to evaluate their financial well-being, especially when it comes to health care. Below are a few tips to consider that may help save on health care expenses:
Learn the Lingo: According to the UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey, just 7 percent of Americans were able to define basic health coverage terms: premium, deductible, copayment and coinsurance. By understanding these terms, consumers can help maximize the value of their health benefits and help avoid unnecessary or surprise medical expenses. The Uniform Glossary of Coverage and Medical Terms and the Just Plain Clear® Glossary are two educational tools that define many commonly used health coverage and medical terms. Also, UnitedHealthcare’s new video explanation of benefits (EOB) is an innovative tool that is being piloted to 250,000 UnitedHealthcare members. The video EOB helps members to understand their claims summary by providing detailed, step-by-step descriptions about a claim.
Get Well: An estimated 70 percent of employers already offer wellness programs and 8 percent more plan to do so during the next year, with some programs offering financial incentives, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The value of corporate wellness incentives has increased to $693 per employee per year, up from $430 five years ago, according to a recent study from the National Business Group on Health®. However, the study found that fewer than half of eligible employees earned the full incentive, with workers leaving millions of dollars of unclaimed rewards. Some wellness programs, such as UnitedHealthcare Motion™ now include activity trackers, which help enable employees to earn up to $1,500 per year in incentives by meeting certain goals. Rally® Health is another wellness program offered by UnitedHealthcare that includes lifestyle action plans (Missions) and rewards users when certain activities are completed.
Select the Right Setting for Care: There are many places for consumers to seek care, including urgent and convenience clinics that are often more cost-effective and offer shorter wait times than other health care facilities. The growing availability of telemedicine is making routine and preventive care available online and through mobile devices, with the cost of a video-based virtual visit (usually $40 or less) offering savings when compared to costs for similar minor medical needs treated at doctor’s office, urgent care facility or emergency room. Recent advances in audio and video technology are enabling consumers to obtain a diagnosis and necessary prescriptions for minor medical needs. *Prescription services may not be available in all states.
Supplemental Plans: Consider adding dental, vision and financial protection plans (critical illness, disability, life) to medical coverage. These plans can help provide head to toe protection. Research suggests a connection between oral health and overall health, so adding a dental plan may help prevent larger medical issues. A vision plan may offer eye exams that can help identify chronic conditions such as diabetes, and offer reduced pricing on frames and lenses. Financial protection products, such as critical illness or hospital indemnity plans, can help provide important safeguards for unexpected health situations.
Start Saving: More employers are offering health plans that include a Health Savings Account (HSA option). An HSA is like a personal bank account specifically for health-related expenses. HSAs offer a triple tax advantage: money is deposited pre-tax and accrues interest tax-free, and withdrawals are not taxed as long as funds are used for qualified health-related expenses. With a growing number of Americans now enrolled in a consumer-directed health plan, these types of savings will become increasingly important.
For more information about National Financial Literacy Month, view our consumer infographic. To learn more about UnitedHealthcare Health Plans and Products, visit uhc.com or contact your UnitedHealthcare representative.