6 tips to help reduce your health care costs in 2021

With so many changes and challenges in 2020, you may be ready for a fresh start – and that may include setting new goals for the coming year. In fact, 53% of Americans plan to make health-related New Year’s resolutions this year, while an equal number have vowed to improve their financial well-being, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.

If you’re starting the year with a new health plan, or a refreshed determination to better control your spending, it may be a good time to look for ways to save money on your health care costs. That may include ways to continue getting the care you need from the safety and comfort of your home.

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If your health coverage is through your employer or an individual plan that you purchased on your own, these tips may help you put your benefits to better use and take advantage of services your plan might offer.

  1. Understand what’s covered
    Many health plans cover annual check-ups and screenings. Find out what your plan covers and take advantage of inclusions or discounts. This may include the ability to fund your tax-free health saving account (HSA), sometimes matched by employers. HSAs can help you pay for eligible out-of-pocket medical, dental and vision expenses. You may also use your HSA as a retirement savings vehicle for health care expenses later in life.  
  2. Connect with a primary care doctor
    The number of Americans with a primary care physician has declined recently, with an estimated 25% of people lacking this type of ongoing relationship with a care provider. This connection may be important for your short-term and long-term health, as a primary care physician can help address your routine medical needs, behavioral health issues and chronic condition management. Research shows that patients with consistent access to the same doctor is associated with improved health and, in turn, lower overall health care costs. To help expand access to this kind of care, some health plans may offer virtual primary care services, enabling those eligible to remotely establish – and maintain – a relationship with a primary care physician.   
  3. Know where to go for care
    Many emergency room visits could be managed in lower-cost settings with shorter wait times and less exposure to germs. If you are faced with a non-emergency health condition – like a migraine, sore throat or stomachache – but your doctor’s office is closed or not convenient to access, consider the potential benefits of a virtual care visit. The choice may be the difference between paying $50 or $2,100.* Learn more about what to consider when deciding where to go for care. 
  4. Stay in network
    In addition to choosing the right care setting, choosing doctors and labs in your plan’s network will most likely mean you’ll pay less. Care providers and labs that are in-network have a pre-negotiated rate for health care services, which may help to eliminate the chance of a surprise bill. Verify your services will be covered by calling the number on your health plan ID card or researching with your health plan’s provider resources
  5. Go generic
    Generic medications contain the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterparts, and they may save you money. But remember that generics may cost more at one retailer compared to another, so you may want to shop around. UnitedHealthcare members can compare prescription costs through the pricing tool at myuhc.com and the UnitedHealthcare app.
  6. Take advantage of incentives
    Many employers offer incentive-based well-being programs, which may enable you to earn rewards based on meeting certain health goals. Some programs reward you for activities you may already be doing, such as walking, cycling or using an at-home elliptical. One example is UnitedHealthcare Motion®, which enables eligible program participants to earn more than $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily activity goals.** For eligible enrollees with Apple Watch, they may now have access – at no additional cost – for at least six months to Apple Fitness+ for studio-style workout classes, including strength, yoga, dance and mindful cooldown.*** Visit unitedhealthcaremotion.com for more information. 

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to take the time to review your health plan and explore the potential incentives available that you may be able to take advantage of in 2021. Following these tips may even help you achieve both your health-related — and financial — resolutions for the year ahead.

* Information about treatment costs are estimates and reflect the average costs of guidance and care delivered through UnitedHealthcare owned and contracted service providers to members of UnitedHealthcare health plans. Costs for specific guidance and treatments may be higher or lower than the costs represented here. Emergency room cost estimates include facility charge and initial physician consultation.

**Financial incentives may be less due to limits under applicable laws.

***Existing Apple Watch owners will get six months at no additional cost; new Apple Watch purchases will get eight months at no additional cost. UnitedHealthcare Motion members must activate the offer between Jan. 1 and June 30. 

Apple, Apple Watch and Apple Fitness+ are registered and unregistered trademarks of Apple Inc. 

UnitedHealthcare Motion is a voluntary program. The information provided under this program is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be nor should be construed as medical advice. You should consult an appropriate health care professional before beginning any exercise program and/or to determine what may be right for you. Receiving an activity tracker and/or activation credit may have tax implications. You should consult an appropriate tax professional to determine if you have any tax obligations from receiving an activity tracker and/or activation credit under this program, as applicable. If any fraudulent activity is detected (e.g., misrepresented physical activity), you may be suspended and/or terminated from the program. If you are unable to meet a standard related to health factor to receive a reward under this program, you might qualify for an opportunity to receive the reward by different means. Contact us by email (will.shanley@uhc.com) and we will work with you (and, if necessary, your doctor) to find another way for you to earn the same reward.