Get the most out of your healthcare benefits

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tips on how to help reduce health care expenses

For many Missourians, new health plan benefits began in January, so now is a good time to understand your coverage so you can get the most out of your plan, stay healthier and even help save money in 2018.

Many people can save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a year by learning how to maximize their health plan's offerings. Here are some tips I recommend to help you get the most out of your benefits this year:

• Learn the lingo – Make sure to understand basic health plan terms such as deductible, copay, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum. A recent UnitedHealthcare survey found that just 9 percent of Americans could successfully define all four of these important terms. Need a refresher course? If so, spend a few minutes to better understand common health insurance terms and your specific plan amounts to help you make more informed decisions.

• Know what’s covered – You can usually find your coverage and benefits information on your insurers' website or in plan documents so you know what’s covered and what’s not. Review this information before you start using your plan and receiving treatment so you’re not surprised by costs later.

• Stay in-network – Choosing doctors in your plan’s care provider network will most likely mean you’ll pay less.

• Check out 24/7 telehealth services. 'Virtual visits' can help save you time and money by providing convenient access to care for certain medical issues including allergies, bronchitis and seasonal flu.

• Save on medications – Make sure your medications are covered by your plan, and ask your doctor about generics to see if there’s a more affordable and equally effective alternative. Also, getting prescriptions through the mail is often a good cost-saving option. Most plans enable you to order up to a three-month supply of medication you take regularly, sometimes at a discount. Your medication will be delivered right to your home, saving you a trip to the pharmacy.

• Shop around and get cost estimates – Several health insurers offer online health care tools and resources that enable you to check on the quality and cost of health care services and care providers before you make appointments. Be sure to double-check the cost with your care provider before getting treatments, as prices can vary significantly for the same procedure within the same city.

• Take advantage of wellness programs – Many health plans offer discounts on gym memberships and provide financial incentives, some more than $1,000 per year, for completing health assessments, signing up for health coaching programs, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, meeting walking goals or stopping smoking. Incentive-based wellness programs are designed to reward people for making healthier choices and being more engaged in improving their well-being.

• Look for medical grants – Some charitable organizations offer child medical grants to middle-and low-income families who don’t qualify for Medicaid. For example, the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) provides families with grants of up to $5,000 annually per child ($10,000 lifetime maximum per child). Recipients do not need to have insurance through UnitedHealthcare to be eligible. Since 2007, UHCCF has awarded more than 15,000 grants valued at over $40 million to children and their families across the United States. Families can read eligibility criteria and complete an online application at

For more tips and easy-to-understand information about health care and health insurance, visit the UHC Newsroom.