(BlackDoctor.org) — CO-PAYS. DEDUCTIBLES. OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES. It may feel like you need to empty your savings account to stay healthy. You’re not alone: One in six Americans spends at least 10 percent of his or her annual income on prescriptions, premiums, and medical care.
Here, learn why you’re paying too much—and how you can put that money back in your own pocket.
1. Choose a plan carefully. When it comes time to re-enroll this year, don’t blindly check the box next to your current policy. Re-evaluate your plan annually to ensure it meets your current needs.
The first question you should ask is whether you have a favorite doctor or a medical condition that requires a specialist’s care. If you answered yes to either, your best bet may be one of the pricier preferredprovider organization (PPO) or pointof- service (POS) plans, which give you the freedom to visit any physician, says Lankford. Generally, an in-network doctor will charge $10 to $25 per visit; out-of-network M.D.’s bill you for 30 percent of their fees. But if you only see your physician a few times a year, a health-maintenance organization (HMO) may be a better fit. These offer a limited selection of doctors for cheaper premiums and co-pays.
If you’re self-employed or your employer doesn’t offer medical insurance, check out Web sites that offer price and coverage comparisons by state. Take into account your prescriptions, regular care needs, and mental health and vision expenses. Also consider if you’re planning on becoming pregnant within the year, because not all plans cover those costs.
2. Question your tests. Doctors aren’t necessarily aware of what screens and exams are covered by your insurance. To avoid pricey surprises, bring a list of approved labs to your first appointment with a new physician. Also check with your insurance provider before you schedule any treatments or tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, and breast ultrasounds; you may need to get written or verbal approval beforehand. Write down everyone you talk to and the time and date you spoke.