How We Saved on Medical Expenses
When I turned age 60 I was jolted with a large health insurance premium increase. My wife also pointed out how much we were paying for other medical expenses. This prompted us to review what we were spending and the objective was to see what we could do to reduce medical costs now that we are semi-retired. We have been able to substantially save on our medical costs, mostly by being smarter about it and being proactive. Here’s how we did it.
1. Shop for a Better Deal on Health Insurance Since we were self employed and paying our own premiums the raises at age 60 were really hurting. We both shopped around and I was able to change from Blue Cross Blue Shield to Aetna Insurance and saved $261 per month for similar or better coverage and deductible. My new policy has dental coverage for two preventive visits per year saving me another $225. My wife has a preexisting condition and wasn’t able to get a better rate. Annual Saving: $3357
2. Call Your Insurance Company for Coverage Before Making Doctor Visits You can’t trust your doctor’s office to do this for you. They don’t know your coverage and don’t know how many visits you have had or how much you have spend towards your deductible. Calling your insurance company yourself is a major way to save on medical costs. Call the 800 number on your insurance card and tell them of your planned visit to a medical office and the purpose. Find out if it will be covered and do they have any suggestions. A lot of times it just depends on when, where and to whom you go for medical treatment. It can make all the difference in how much comes out of your pocket. Always call and take notes of who you talked to and what they said. Do not rely solely on coverage books or on-line information. Make the call.
For example for my annual routine eye exam I used to visit a board-certified ophthalmologist, a specialist in medical and surgical eye problems and the cost was $110 per visit and my insurance was not covering any of it since I did not have vision care. I called my insurance company to see what was covered and they said they covered eye exams by an optometrist, an eye care professional, like those at LensCrafters, so I changed and get the same comprehensive eye exam. Annual Saving $110
3. Time Visits to Your Policy Coverage Your policy may have a limit number of covered doctor visits per year. Also keep in mind if you have met your annual deductible. Don’t delay needed medical treatment but scheduling routine visits to your advantage really helps keep your cost down.
My wife need an overnight sleep study for Apnea so the doctor’s office scheduled it last December saying they had checked and it would be a covered expense as a doctor visit. But she had a 6 visit coverage limit on her policy which they didn’t know about. My wife knew she had used here 6 visits and rescheduled the sleep study to January. It was covered. Annual Saving $1800
4. Change to an In Network Doctor Call your insurance company to find a doctor in their network. This can make a huge difference in coverage. My story is that for my annual physical I tried to look up a doctor near me that was in my insurance company’s network. There were so many plans like mine that I couldn’t tell for sure what plan I had. I selected a doctor and called their office to verify they were in the network but they said they couldn’t advise tell either. I went ahead but it was not covered and I paid $400. This year I called my insurance company for a in network doctor. Come to find out that there was a doctor in the same office I went to last year that was in my network. Annual Saving $400
So the above steps resulted in a saving to us of $5673 in one year. I feel we received just as good or better medical service and saved lots of money. We will continue to be proactive in managing our medical expenses. I know there are lots more ways to save on medical expenses to be learned. We know no one will manage our medical expenses better than us. It is really not that hard to do, it is just recognizing you can make a difference by asking questions and participating in this part of your life which for so long was not as significant factor as it is now.
Robert Fowler is President of Retirement Media Inc