Manage and estimate your health care costs
Comparing prices and finding ways to save money is likely something you do daily — whether you're shopping for everyday products and services or making larger purchases, like a home or car. Just like your everyday shopping, there are ways to save money on health care too. For example, you may be able to get cost estimates before you get care for certain conditions, like pregnancy care, an elective surgery, or an MRI. You can choose providers in your health plan network to take advantage of lower costs that your health insurance carrier has negotiated for you. And there’s more. Let’s go over 6 tips to help you save money on quality health care.
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6 tips to help you estimate costs and save money on health care
1. Estimate your health care costs
Did you know there are ways to look up cost estimates online? If you're a UnitedHealthcare member, you can sign in to your health plan account to find:
- Average costs for providers in your network, including doctors, hospitals, office visits, mental health services, labs, convenience care and more.
- Average cost for specific treatments in your area.
- Quality ratings and reviews for providers, hospitals or facilities.
2. Choose network providers
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.
UnitedHealthcare members have access to a large provider network that includes more than 1.2 million physicians and care professionals and 6540 hospitals and care facilities nationwide.1
3. Understand your prescription medication benefit
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. Here are a few other money-saving tips.
- Enroll in home delivery if it’s included in your benefit. You may be able to order up to a 90-day supply of medication you regularly take. There’s usually no charge for standard shipping within the U.S. and it may save you money.
- When your doctor prescribes medication, look at your PDL. You can ask about a lower cost alternative if the drug your doctor chooses is too expensive or isn’t covered.
4. Stay on track with yearly doctor visits
Did you know that seeing your doctor for regular preventive care can pay off? Here’s how — it may help detect issues early when health conditions are typically more treatable.2
So, if it’s time for a checkup, take time to schedule it now. 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.
5. Choose where to get care – with care
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. Some locations may charge more for the same services, so you may pay less at some clinics. Here are some cost-saving tips for choosing where to go for medical 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.
- Compare your care options. 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 $2,000 for some health plans)3 compared to an ER visit.
- Try a virtual visit. With virtual visits — or telehealth services — you can talk with a doctor online using your mobile device or computer. You can get treatment options and even prescriptions for medications, if needed. And it is usually less costly than an office visit. Sign in to your health plan account or call the number on your member ID card to learn about your benefit for virtual visits.
6. Learn health insurance cost terms
There’s no question — health insurance terms can be confusing. Knowing what all the jargon means might help you better control costs. It can help you make decisions too. Here’s a list of common terms that could help. If you find other terms you don't know, 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.