When you’re choosing a health plan, there are many things to consider — and costs are often one of the big ones. Understanding your lifestyle, how often you use medical services and other available resources may help you find the quality care you need, and may help lower your health care costs. Generally, the higher your premiums, the lower your out-of-pocket costs, and vice versa.
Consider these key tips:
- Choose the right plan for you
For any health plan you choose, you’ll pay a monthly payment, called a premium, to keep your policy active. Depending on your plan, you may also pay each time you receive medical care. Generally, the higher your premiums, the lower your out-of-pocket costs — and vice versa. Those out-of-pocket costs may include copayments, deductibles and coinsurance.
When looking at plan costs, think about how you use medical services. If you’re pretty healthy and rarely visit a doctor or a hospital, it may make sense to choose a plan with lower premiums. Just recognize that in return for those lower premiums, your out-of-pocket costs will be higher when you do receive care.
If you use health care more frequently, it may make sense to pay a little more each month in your premium so you don’t have to dig as deep into your wallet every time you need care.
- Look for in-network doctors and facilities
When you need medical care, it can be helpful to choose a provider or a facility in your health plan’s “network.” The network includes the facilities, providers and suppliers your health insurer or plan has contracted with to provide health care services. Your insurance company has agreed to pay those health care providers a certain amount of money for your visits – usually a discounted rate. Because of those discounts, you pay less when you see a health care provider in the network versus one who’s outside the network.
For out-of-network providers, your insurance may cover only a fraction of the cost of care – or none at all – depending on your plan.
Before you make your next appointment, check with your health plan to make sure the provider or facility is “in network.” When in doubt, search your plan’s provider database or call the number on your health plan ID card to get the most up-to-date information.
- Take advantage of tech tools
Some health plans offer tools and resources, such as the UnitedHealthcare app or uhc.com/transparency, to help you comparison shop for medical services so you know what you may pay for treatment.
Other wellness-based technology may offer incentives for meeting certain health goals. One example is UnitedHealthcare Motion®, which enables eligible program participants to earn financial rewards each year by meeting certain daily walking goals.
- Consider telehealth options
Virtual visits may be a convenient way to seek non-emergency care for aliments such as a fever, rash or sinus problem. These visits may cost less than a trip to urgent care or an emergency room and they may save you time, as well. Some services like depression screenings or tobacco-use counseling may also be offered. Check with your insurance plan to see what telehealth services may be covered.
- Open an HSA
More employers are offering health plans that include a Health Savings Account (HSA) option. An HSA is a personal bank account specifically for health-related expenses. These accounts offer a triple tax advantage: Money is deposited pre-tax from your paycheck, accrues interest tax-free and withdraws are not taxed as long as the money is used for qualified health-related expenses.