5 tips that may help reduce your health care costs

If you’re starting the year with a new health plan or simply a refreshed determination to trim expenses, now may be a good time to look for ways to save on your health care costs.

Whether your coverage is through your employer or is an individual plan purchased on your own, these tips may help put your benefits to better use and make health care more affordable:

1. Understand what's covered

Many health plans cover costs for annual check-ups, health screenings and immunizations when you see a network care provider. Consider verifying how other services will be covered by logging into your member website or calling the number on your ID card.

If you signed up for a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA) as part of your 2022 benefits, make sure you know how to use those funds to pay for qualified expenses not covered by your plan.

2. Know where to go for care

Heading to an emergency room for a non-life-threatening issue may cost you far more than visiting an alternative setting, such as urgent care or a convenience clinic. An average ER visit is around $2,200, while a typical urgent care appointment may cost you $180. In addition, seeking care in the ER may mean longer wait times and increased exposure to germs, such as the virus that causes COVID-19.

If you are faced with a non-emergency health condition, such as a migraine, sore throat or stomachache, but your primary care doctor’s office is closed, consider the potential benefits of a convenient, lower-cost virtual visit. Appointments that allow you to speak with a health care professional via a smartphone, laptop or tablet can often be made 24/7 with an average cost of $54 or less.

3. Stay in network

In addition to knowing the right care setting, choosing doctors and labs in your plan’s network will likely mean paying less. In-network care providers and labs have pre-negotiated rates for health care services, which may help reduce the chances you’ll get a surprise bill.

Consider using your plan’s online directory or calling the number on your member ID card to make sure your doctors and labs are in your network.

4. Consider prescription options

Knowing how to get the most out of your prescription benefits may help you manage costs.

For example, your health plan may offer discounts, or you may have access to generic versions of brand-name drugs. Generic medications contain the same active ingredients but typically cost less.

You may be able to save even more by filling your prescriptions at a participating network pharmacy or by choosing home delivery by mail.

5. Take advantage of incentives

Many plans offer wellness programs that may enable you to earn incentives for meeting certain health goals. Some programs reward you for activities you may already be doing, such as walking, cycling or strength training.

You may also be able to use fitness apps. 

In addition to these tips, you may also be able to maintain lower overall health care costs by staying engaged with a primary care physician, who can help you proactively identify medical issues and better manage any chronic conditions.

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