1) How to Save on Your Copayments
One of the most common errors made by insurance companies is miscalculation of the family deductible. For example, your plan may have a deductible of $200 per person and $400 per family. But unless the company adds up all of your family’s bills, each of you might still be paying his or her individual deductible even though the family already met its $400 requirement.
A similar error can occur if the claims office neglects to calculate your annual total out-of-pocket limit. Once you have paid this amount, generally between $1,000 and $2,000, the insurance company pays 100 percent of all other costs for the remainder of the year. So be sure to keep a careful tally of individual as well as total family payments.
2) How To Save On Your Hospital Bill
If you need surgery, ask your doctor if it can be performed on an outpatient basis or on the day you are admitted to the hospital. If not, ask if you can schedule your surgery early in the week, so you won’t have to spend the weekend in the hospital if you’re well enough to go home.
Have all the necessary tests done before you’re admitted to save at least a day or two of hospital charges.
Keep a log. Try to keep a daily record of the services, medications and other supplies you receive. You can find forms for logging tests and medication in Take This Book to the Hospital With You, from The People’s Medical Society.
When you get your bill, check that you are not being charged for procedures you didn’t have. If you get a bill with just summary charges, ask the hospital for a breakdown that in-cludes a description of each procedure.
To make sure the charges are correct, start with the obvious: The room rate, number of days, major procedures, operating room, recovery room, etc. Then, compare the other charges against your records. It might take some time, but it could save you money.
Only 80 percent of fees the insurance company considers to be the “reasonable and customary” are covered. What happens if your doctor charges $4,000 for a procedure your insurance company thinks should cost $3,500? Your insurer will only pay 80 percent of the $3,500, or $2,800. That leaves you with $1,200 to pay! Find out ahead of time how much your insurance company will pay for a procedure and tell your doctor you want to make sure his or her fee is covered by your insurance. Many physicians will agree not to charge more than that.
· Don’t repeat medical tests needlessly. If you change doctors or dentists, have your new practitioner get copies of your records.
· Buy generic drugs, both over-the-counter and prescription, and shop around for the best price. Generics are almost always as safe and effective as name brands—but they are usually a lot cheaper. Ask your doctor to prescribe generics when they’re available.
· Consider buying prescription drugs from mail-order pharmacies. Mail order firms often charge less than your local druggist. One caveat: They can’t fill prescriptions as quickly. But they’re perfect for patients taking medication for long-term conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart disease. Ask your personnel department if your company has a mail-order program. Other mail-order resources: Pharmail, 800-2378927; Action Mail Order Drug, 800-452-1976; and Medi-Mail, 800-331-1458.
· Avoid emergency rooms except in true emergencies. Show up at an emergency room at midnight with a problem that can wait until morning and you lose twice: You pay top dollar, and you wait for hours while the real emergencies are taken care of. Try your doctor or a 24-hour urgent-care center.
· Get your children vaccinated, and make sure you are protected, too. Although insurance may not cover their costs, immunizations are among the biggest bargains in medicine. Keep records and get boosters when needed.