Americans are natural shoppers. We like to find the best deal on pretty much everything we buy — except our health care coverage. When it comes to health care, people don’t really think about looking for a good deal, and this can be costly for your copmany and your employees. To help keep costs under control, there are a few effective shopping tips that you can share with employees.
Use Online Shopping Tools
The Internet has made finding deals on health care coverage much easier. FAIR Health and Healthcare Bluebook list the average prices of medical services and procedures. Whenever your employees need treatment, recommend that they double-check the price with these websites to make sure they’re being treated fairly. Your health insurance provider may offer additional tools that show the price based on the discount they have negotiated with a specific doctor or hospital. Those tools may require employees to log in on the insurance copmany’s website to get the information.
Ask for Lower-Cost Options
There are ways to get the same quality health care coverage at a lower cost. Generic prescription drugs are one popular strategy. Let your employees know that they should always ask for generics when possible. Generics are exactly the same medicine but come at a fraction of the price, as detailed by the FDA.
Another useful tip is for when someone needs surgery: Your employees should ask if it’s possible to have the procedure at an outpatient facility so that it doesn’t require an overnight stay at the hospital. Once again, the results are the same, but this decision can save thousands.
Some employees may assume they should go to the emergency room if they have a medical need at night or over the weekend when their doctor’s office is closed. For certain medical needs, like a stomachache or a rash, it’s less expensive and often faster to get treatment at an urgent care center or retail health clinic.
Stay in the Network
Your health care plan will have a network of qualified providers. Most plans let your employees see out-of-network providers, but the costs will be higher. Often, people forget to check the network when their regular doctor refers them to see a specialist. Recommend that your employees double-check that the doctor is in-network before seeing a specialist so that they don’t get hit with an extra fee. If the specialist is out-of-network, the employees can ask to see an in-network specialist.
Avoid Unnecessary Procedures
Doctors may sometimes prescribe procedures to avoid liability or to receive a fee — not necessarily because it’s medically necessary. In a poll of over 50 medical societies, doctors said annual Pap smears, regular PSA tests for prostate cancer, regular EKGs for people with no history of heart disease and MRIs for back pain were some of the most unnecessary procedures. Not only do these procedures waste money when not medically necessary, but some can also lead to dangerous side effects. Warn your employees about these practices so that they don’t take anything that’s not helpful, and even potentially harmful. Be sure to remind your employees to ask the right questions when consulting with their doctors.
By following these shopping tips, you and your employees will be able to put a dent in your costs and leave more money in all of your pockets.
David Rodeck is a professional freelance writer based out of Delaware. Before writing full-time, he worked as a health- and life-insurance agent. He specializes in making insurance, investing and financial planning understandable.