Aside from failing entirely to care for ourselves medically or the extreme option of death, how can we try and trim our medical expenses? After years in and around the insurance industry, I have a number of suggestions. All will require a bit of investigation on your part. This effort may range from actually reaching a live customer service representative from your insurance company to reading some of the fine print in the coverage manual they send you annually. Your efforts, however, will save you money.
Suggestion: Know Where to Find & How to Take Advantage of Each and Every Benefit Your Insurance Company Offers
Your insurance company’s benefits include the usual coverage of this-and-that as well as the “perk” type coverage they show when they’re making commercials. Most of us are only acquainted with the former type of benefit and for good reason. I understand that it’s only a slightly easier to be in the first ten rows at the Oscars than it is to locate the illusive “perk” benefit. But I’ll try and give you some clues where to look.
The first thing you’ll need is a copy of your benefits book. It’s also helpful to find their version online as that is often the most up-to-date version. If, by reading my articles, you’ve gained the impression that we need to be a bit like death row inmate lawyers, you’re right. If you think that someone is going to call you from Acme Health Insurance to remind you that they offer x, which you haven’t yet taken advantage of, you need to investigate your current mental health benefits immediately.
Regarding the “usual” benefits, know them generally and review them specifically before you have a particular procedure done, see a certain type of doctor, or are referred for different types of treatments such as physical therapy, for instance. I know some people with the instinct of a shark when it comes to saving money at the grocery store who will blithely undergo whatever Dr. Doctor recommends without first checking on the specifics of their coverage. The coverage details vary from company to company, from year to year and sometimes, from odd or even days of the month.
Organize, as you can, your appointments in order to take advantage of certain classifications. After realizing that my insurance company promised a mixed basic/perk promise of a FREE initial screening colonoscopy – woo wee! – which requires a physical examination and laboratory tests beforehand, I arranged for my GP to do the examination and tests. Billed to my insurance company as a “pre-colonoscopy examination” it all slipped through as covered at no cost to me.
In another situation, I found that I could only receive 12 physical therapy visits per year at 80% reimbursement. I was due to begin a fairly lengthy program in September. After speaking with my doctors about my coverage limitations and exploring the benefits manual a bit more, we deferred my therapy until mid-November. I received my maximum number of visits for the calendar year and then ten more following January 1st. All were covered, despite an intensive and lengthy plan that ordinarily wouldn’t have been covered.
One last example about knowing the workings of your “usual” benefits: a friend of mine required a tentanus shot for an abrasion caused by a rusty barnyard hinge. We actually almost waited for him to go to his family physician the following week. On a hunch, though, we checked his benefits. He could be at the emergency room free of charge and any medications administered would be covered. Or, he could wait and see his regular doctor, paying a $20 co-pay, the $68 price of the vaccine, and a $35 fee for the office nurse to administer the shot. We packed some interesting reading material and dropped by the local emergency room.
Take advantage of any free perk or advantage even hinted at by your coverage book. Hunt down free smoking cessation programs (complete with patches), gym memberships, stress counseling, or even an assigned nurse to help manage your medical care by telephone and help find other programs for you. The squeaky wheel gets the medical discounts.
Good Luck & Good Health to you!