Let’s face it: Health insurance is complicated. And if you’re like many policy holders, you don’t have time to dig into every detail of your plan. Instead, most of us are content to know the basics, like our co-pay amounts and in-network providers. But with a little effort, you can uncover a lot of added value. Try these tips:
- Connect online. Most health plans provide members with a secure online portal and mobile app. You can use these to find general information about coverage and benefits, as well as details on recent doctor visits and other personalized health information. You might also be able to find out which doctors, urgent care centers, hospitals, and other facilities are in your network. It’s usually up to each member to enroll in the portal – so if you haven’t done so, go to your health plan’s website to learn how.
- Take advantage of discounts and rewards. Many plans offer discounts for gym memberships, massages, LASIK surgery and other health and wellness services. Some plans have programs that can help you save money on insurance premiums, or earn points for reaching certain wellness or fitness goals or completing online learning modules.
- Get free health checks and preventive care. Along with an annual flu shot, your health plan may cover screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index (BMI). You might also be able to get one-on-one meetings with a food expert for little or no cost. Some also offer health risk appraisals, an in-depth questionnaire that gives a more complete picture of your overall health. You may even be able to call a free health coach for ways to reduce your risk for certain conditions.
- Use hotlines, online programs, and other services. Ready to quit smoking – for real? Need to ask a nurse what to do for your child’s fever? Many plans offer services like quit-smoking coaches, nurse hotlines, online support groups, Internet-based wellness programs, and much more. Some plans provide free classes – virtually or in person – on topics like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, birth control, and breastfeeding. They may provide a tool to help you predict how much treatments will cost. Some offer special case management programs, which help guide you through the challenges of managing complex conditions. Your health plan might even give you access to telemedicine, so you can have a virtual doctor’s appointment for certain conditions through your computer or mobile device.
- Save money. As more people choose high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), managing out-of-pocket expenses becomes even more important. If you select an HDHP, you can enroll in a flexible savings account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA). Either one lets you use pre-tax dollars to pay for certain expenses, so you can save on healthcare costs by setting tax-free money aside before you need to use it. Pay attention during open enrollment – usually around November – because you may be able to make changes only once a year.
Your health plan may have other benefits as well. Be sure to ask questions during the enrollment period, and explore your plan’s website. The time you spend is well worth it.