5 ways to get the most out of your health insurance plan

Alyssa Pry
Personal Finance Reporter

Health care is expensive, and finding ways to save can be a challenge. Here are five ways to cut your health insurance costs.

TIP 1: Study your plan for freebies and discounts

Most insurance plans offer free preventative care if you stay in-network. That means if you visit a doctor covered under your plan, things like physicals, vaccinations for you and your children, health screenings for diabetes, cholesterol and other procedures will be covered at no cost. If you have a plan through the Affordable Care Act, here’s a full list of what’s covered for free.

Some insurance plans also offer discounts on gym memberships and other incentives, so study your plan so you know what you’re entitled to.

TIP 2: Get an HSA

An HSA is a health savings account, and it’s a helpful way to automatically put money aside to pay for medical care.

You can use an HSA if you have an insurance plan with a high-deductible, which means you pay out-of-pocket for your care until you have spent a certain amount of money. The HSA takes money from your paycheck automatically and adds it to a tax-free account. You can use this money to pay for your deductible costs until your insurance kicks in.

The money you put into this account can be rolled over to the next year and will continue to grow tax-free. It’s a way to create a savings account for your medical care without having to dip into your other sources of savings.

TIP 3: Ask for discounts and coupons

Prescriptions can be pricey, but pharmaceutical companies often give doctors discount coupons for their drugs. Make sure you ask your doctor before you head to the pharmacy to fill your order!

You can also visit the drug manufacturer’s website to find coupons or assistance programs to offset the cost. You can search for the name of specific drugs to find out your cost options here.

Pharmaceutical companies also provide doctors’ offices with samples of their products. Ask if you can have a sample to try before you spend money on the full cost of the medication.

TIP 4: Get an itemized bill

Make sure you get an itemized bill so you can see everything you’ve been charged for. You may have been billed for procedures or care you didn’t receive, or your insurer could have made an error on your bill, which could cost you thousands.

According to a 2014 study by Nerdwallet, 49% of medical claims made through Medicare contained billing errors. In 2016, about 9 million people were contacted by a debt collection agency because of billing mistakes. So study your bill—and ask questions. You may be able to negotiate your bill down, have the charges removed or work out a payment plan with your insurer.

TIP 5: Do your research

Make sure you do your research before you choose a health insurance plan so you know what’s covered and what you’d be responsible for. For example, while it may be tempting to sign up for the cheapest plan, they often include high deductibles which you’d have to pay out-of-pocket until your insurance kicks in, costing you more money in the long-run.

Understanding your plan and what’s included can help you make the best choice for your own health care.

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