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Is a health insurance check-up on your financial to-do list for 2013? Whether your employer offers you a couple different plans to choose from, or you pay out of pocket for your own policy, how do you know if you’re getting the most for your money?
Health insurance expert Katherine Woodfield provides 10 tips on how to navigate the sometimes confusing lingo, mathematic calculations and insurance coverage options to help make sure you’re getting the best deal on health insurance.
1. Call your family's doctors.
Ask for the office manager and find out if there are any providers or any plans that they do not accept. While the office manager may suggest plans they prefer, understand that they’ll prefer plans that pay higher. Since you’ll want to choose a plan with the lowest premium, note that the provider’s suggestions may not be in your best interest.
2. Find out the cash payer cost of a routine sinusitis or bronchitis visit.
If you have $50 co-pay and the doctor would charge a cash paying patient $75 for the same visit, you are paying most of the cost of the visit already. This knowledge will become helpful later in this article as we discuss "costing out" your options.
3. Call or visit your pharmacy.
If there are maintenance medications you fill every month, call and ask the pharmacist how much the retail price is for those prescriptions every 30 days. Sometimes co-pays are actually higher than the retail cost! Also, if you are going to be filling the prescriptions from a mail-order pharmacy, you’ll be purchasing the medication 90 days at a time. Remember the day count when comparing prices.
4. Call or visit two other pharmacies.
Now that you have one pharmacy's retail price, you may be surprised to learn that there are no set costs for prescriptions. I have seen price swings of up to $50/month on commonly used generic prescription drugs. If you are going to be filling prescriptions every month, you may want to pick up different products from different stores.
5. Do you even need or want prescription coverage?
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Once you have collected your prescription data, work out how much it would cost you each month if you paid cash for your prescriptions. If that number is very small (say $60/month) and the insurance plans you’re considering are charging $200/month for their prescription benefit, consider "carving out" or not buying the prescription coverage. By the time you add in co-pays and premium rates, you may realize that you will save money purchasing prescriptions as you go.
6. Health Care Reform has mandated that insurance companies pay 100% before co-pay and deductible for all preventative care.