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Saving Money on Health Insurance

Here’s the new reality: We’re all paying more for fewer health benefits.

A 2010 employer health benefits survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that employees paid 14% more for family health coverage last year than just one year before.

And, an online survey just out from Glassdoor.com found that cuts to health and dental benefits were on the rise during the last quarter of 2010, with more than 11% of employees surveyed seeing their benefits reduced in the past six months.

What’s driving costs skyward? Experts cite a mix of inefficiencies within the health care system, a growing use of medical technology, an aging population, widespread chronic disease, medical malpractice and rising prescription drug costs.

All this has prompted many people to ask: “How can I save money on my healthcare?”

Here, a few cost-saving tips to consider:

Negotiate. Ask your doctor, hospital or lab upfront how much your care will cost, and then ask for a better price. To find out what’s reasonable for the type of care you need, you can use online tools such as Healthcare Blue Book and Vimo.

Be sure to ask your provider for the CPT code (Common Procedural Terminology) that corresponds to the service you need so you can be sure you’re getting an accurate comparison. Some large insurers also make costs of care available to their members online.

If the procedure you want or need isn’t covered by your insurance plan (or you have no insurance) ask for the same rate the provider would give an insurance company. And, make sure you get the agreed upon rate in writing. Most providers have their billing done by a billing company. You may need to show proof of your agreement to billing staff who didn’t get the message from the doctor.

Pay cash. Doctors, like everyone else, prefer to be paid right away for the services they provide Offering to pay in cash for your treatment prevents your doctor or hospital from having to bill you or wait for full payment. That convenience can put you in a stronger position to negotiate a better price on your care.

Watch your location. You’ll pay more for the same lab work done at a hospital than you would if you had your blood drawn at a free-standing lab or your doctor’s office. Talk with your doctor about alternative and less expensive sites for treatment.

Review your bills. As I’ve talked about before in this blog, a large percentage of medical bills contain inaccuracies. Always check for duplicate or inappropriate charges before you pay any bills.

Save on prescription drugs.  Be sure to shop for the best price on your medications because costs vary widely among different pharmacies. You can compare drug prices side-by-side among many pharmacies at both PlanPrescriber.com and Pharmacychecker.com. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy offers listings of online pharmacies it has accredited.

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