A hack is a technique to solve everyday problems. What constitutes a hack to an everyday problem? Finding the shortest route work. The shortest line at the DMV. And with the uncertainty of the future of health insurance in America, here are five health insurance hacks that you’ll find useful whether Obamacare sticks around or not! These hacks are meant to be responsible workarounds that get you the best bang for your buck.
Five Health Insurance Hacks
1. The Z-pack
Anyone that’s ever had any type of upper respiratory infection is quickly told they need a Z-pack. A Z-pack is a pack of six 250mg tablets of azithromycin. A great antibiotic. The Z-pack comes in a blister pack with instructions to take the first two tablets on the first day (total of 500mg) and then one tablet on day 2, 3, 4 and 5. The Z-pack costs about $40 with insurance at Walgreen’s. But what if your doctor orders you six 250mg tablets of azithromycin without the fancy blister pack or instructions? About $15 and probably even less at CostCo. I’m confident that without the printed instructions on the pack, you’ll remember to take two pills on the first day and one pill each day for the next 4 days!
You can do the same for a Medrol dose pack as well!
Sometimes your orthopedic surgeon, rheumatologist or primary care doctor will write a prescription for Ibuprofen 800mg. That’s a prescription dose. The only problem is that you have to go see your doctor to get that prescription. Or you’ll fill the prescription using your insurance and pay a copay. But what if you just walked into the drugstore and bought a bottle of ibuprofen with 200mg tablets? Aside from saving time and money, you can simply take four tablets which equals a prescription dose. Regardless of whether you take one or 4 tablets to reach the 800mg dose, take it with food and water to avoid a stomach ulcer.
3. High deductible health plans
The idea behind a high deductible health plan is that it’s less money each month in premiums but potentially more if you actually get sick. So first off, only do this if you’re under the age of 65 and healthy. But that’s not the hack here.
You need to determine the absolute minimum health coverage you need. Is it just coverage for birth control pills and a catastrophic event? Get the least expensive plan on the healthcare exchanges or directly from an insurer. Is it maternity care? Well, then pay attention, because this is the hack.
First, decide what hospital you want to deliver in. OK, then decide if you have a particular doctor in mind. But what if your favorite ObGyn and hospital aren’t part of the same really inexpensive high-deducible plan? Then get the plan that includes your favorite hospital. It’s fairly simple to find a low cost high-deductible plan that covers most hospital-related maternity costs. Since the hospital is where most of the expense lies, you don’t want to pay for that out of pocket. Let your insurance handle it.
But what about paying for your favorite ObGyn? Do you know how much an ObGyn gets paid for 9 months of care and the delivery, even if it’s a C-section? About $1200. Enter the bean counters. You can get insurance that includes the hospital and ObGyn you want for $800 per month ($9,600 per year). Or you can get a lower cost plan that only includes your hospital for about $400 per month. That’s $4,800 per year, plus the out-of-pocket cost of your favorite ObGyn ($1,200) which comes to a total of $6,000. You just saved $3,600!
4. Lab, Radiology and other Outpatient Tests
If your doctor orders a test while you’re an inpatient at a hospital, you don’t really have a choice of where you get that test. You pretty much have to accept that you’re getting the test there but by then, you will have exceeded your deductible anyway. However, if you’re an outpatient and haven’t met your deductible (i.e. you’ll be paying out of pocket for this test), assume that the hospital is the most expensive place to get a test performed. Simply put, if you’re paying for it, find an outpatient radiology or lab testing center that’s significantly less expensive than getting the exact same test at a hospital. And if you’re shouldering the out-of-pocket costs, check out the fifth hack below.
5. Online pricing guides
As more consumers start to become bean counters when it comes to their healthcare, they’re researching healthcare costs online. Most healthcare facilities still don’t make it easy to find out the costs ahead of time. However, there are more healthcare providers that believe in price transparency and post their prices online. This website not only provides automated pricing information but also connects you with a doctor that will help you navigate through a facility near you.
Now you’re armed with five money-saving, yet responsible, health insurance hacks. Good luck out there!