Manage your health care costs
6 tips to help reduce your health care costs
Finding ways to save money — we do it every day. We compare prices on products. We choose stores that offer discounts. Did you know you may be able to save money on your health care costs too? It might be a surprise. But if you have a clear picture of your health plan benefits, you may be able to make choices that help reduce your health care costs. Let’s go over 6 cost-saving tips to help you access quality health care at a cost that may be easier on your wallet.
When doctors and facilities are in the UnitedHealthcare network, it means they’ve agreed to provide services at a discount. So, when you choose their services, your costs will be lower. Providers who are not in your health plan network could charge more. That means their services could cost you more or may not be covered at all.
How to choose a network doctor
You can sign in to your health plan account to browse a full list of network providers for your specific plan. This includes network doctors, mental health professionals, pharmacies, hospitals, labs and more.
You can also search a general provider list to see how the provider directory works. But you’ll need to confirm which providers are in your plan’s network.
With a wide range of providers, services and treatment plans available, costs for the same service may vary more than you’d think. In fact, it’s been shown that people who look at costs first may pay up to 36% less for their care.1 Checking costs can help you choose a provider that may work better with your budget.
How to get cost estimates
You can look up cost estimates for specific treatments and procedures using your health plan account. It can be simpler than you might think. Sign in to your health plan account to get started. You can look up a service and it will show you an average cost range for each provider. For example, you can look up “allergy testing” and see the average cost for the visit and testing. You can compare cost estimates for different providers — before you even schedule an appointment.
A Prescription Drug List (PDL) is your health plan’s list of drugs and how they’re covered. If you take medications regularly, it’s important to watch for PDL updates. Sometimes changes to that list can change your costs. Check to see if your benefit includes home delivery too. You may be able to order up to a 90-day supply of medication you regularly take — and there’s usually no charge for standard shipping within the U.S.
How to save on prescription medications
Keep up with your Prescription Drug List (PDL) by signing in to your health plan account. When your doctor prescribes medication, look at your list and talk about the cost. You can ask about a lower cost alternative if the drug your doctor chooses is too expensive or isn’t covered. At times, a similar drug can work just as well — like if there’s a generic version of the drug.
If your prescription medication benefit includes home delivery, you can avoid monthly trips to the pharmacy and you may save money too. You can enroll in just a few steps when you sign in to your health plan account or call the number on your member ID card.
Time for a doctor checkup? It’s easy to miss one here and there. But it pays off if you stay in sync with your doctor on a regular basis. It may help detect issues early when health conditions are typically more treatable.2
How to help save with preventive care
Schedule your preventive care visits on time. Preventive care includes all your regular doctor visits — that means any of your annual checkups and screenings. You can prepare for your preventive visits and get a list of screenings you might need too.
When you need to go to the doctor, choosing the right level of care can help you save — and may help ensure you’ll get the quality care you need. You might wonder why. It’s because some locations may charge more for the same services. When your doctor recommends a test or procedure, you may pay less when you visit one clinic type over another.
How to choose quality care that may help you save
When you need care, call your primary care provider or family doctor first. Your doctor has access to your records, usually knows the most about your health and may offer same-day appointments. Here are some other ways you may save:
- Know your care options. When seeing your regular doctor is not possible, reviewing your choices before you get care may help you avoid unexpected costs. For example, for non-emergency care, you could consider going to an urgent care center, convenience care clinic or set up an online doctor visit. When you know your care options, it may help you save both time and money (up to $1,900)3 compared to an ER visit.
- Try a Virtual Visit. With a Virtual Visit — or telehealth services — you can talk with a doctor online using your mobile device or computer. Virtual Visits are urgent care visits that are available anytime, day or night, if covered by your plan. Sign in to your health plan account to find a doctor for Virtual Visits.
There’s no question — health insurance terms can be confusing. Knowing exactly what they mean could make a difference. It might help you better control costs and make more informed decisions. Here’s a list of common terms that could help. If you find other terms you don't know, you can review this Common terms list or visit the Just Plain Clear glossary.
A premium is the amount an individual or employer pays each month for your health insurance or plan.
A deductible is the amount of health costs you are responsible for before the health plan starts sharing costs.
A copay is the fixed amount you pay each time you see a network provider.
The amount shared by you and your health plan for health costs, calculated as a percentage.
An out of pocket limit is the total amount of health costs you are responsible for before your plan pays 100% of covered health costs for the rest of the year.
A referral is a written order from your primary care provider for you to see a specialist or get certain health care services. Not all health plans require a referral, but if your plan does, ask your PCP or clinic for an electronic referral before you visit a specialist. Without this referral, you’ll likely pay more for your care or it may not be covered. If you don’t know if you need a referral, sign in to your health plan account or call the number on your ID card to find out. Your ID card may even say "Referrals Required."
Prior authorization means getting approval before you can get access to medicine or services. With prior authorization, your health insurance agrees to pay for the service — and it’s important to know that ahead of time. If you are unsure of whether you need prior authorization for a service, take a look at your coverage documents or call the number on your ID card.
- UnitedHealthcare Internal Claims Analysis, 2016.
- MyHealthFinder; accessed 5/2019.
- Source 2018: Average allowed amounts charged by UnitedHealthcare Network Providers and not tied to a specific condition or treatment. Actual payments may vary depending upon benefit coverage. (Estimated $1,900.00 difference between the average emergency room visit and the average urgent care visit.) The information and estimates provided are or general informational and illustrative purposes only and is not intended to be nor should be construed as medical advice or a substitute for your doctor’s care. You should consult with an appropriate health care professional to determine what may be right for you. In an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.