4 Tips for Planning Medical Expenses

Now that many insured employees are starting to settle into their new medical insurance plan, it’s important to learn from others the best practices for managing expenses that pop up during the year. Below are four tips to help you plan your medical expenses:

1. Take a picture of your receipt at the time of purchase

With a tax-advantaged account, like a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you need the receipt as evidence no matter how you paid for it. Before jamming it into your pocket, wallet, or purse, use your SmartPhone to take a picture of it and memorialize it forever.

Tango users can now add the receipt right into their Health Spending Journal while standing at the pharmacy counter using our new mobile friendly interface. If you used personal funds for the transaction, you’ve got immediate proof of the qualified expense and can make a reimbursement from your HSA or FSA easily.

2. Find out your local urgent care facility locations, costs, and hours now

I can speak from personal experience that researching local urgent care facilities is extremely important and will save you a lot of money in a minor emergency. I know this because I accidentally cut my hand with a knife on a Friday evening while cooking. It was obvious I’d need stitches and I remembered there was an urgent care facility up the road from my house. I’d seen others, but couldn’t remember if they were in my insurance network or not.

With an emergency, you don’t wait – you just go. As we pulled into the parking lot it was clear from the lack of cars and lights that the facility was closed. A half-mile back we had passed a hospital and decided to just go there rather than circle the city looking for an open urgent care facility. (Plus, I was tired of putting pressure on my hand.)

As I walked in, the first question I asked was whether the hospital took my insurance. They did – but the doctor for the evening did not. At the end of the day, my three stitches cost me $700 in-network hospital fees and $600 out-of-network doctor fees: over $1,300! Thank goodness I had money in my HSA to cover that.

While writing this blog, I decided to reach out to an urgent care clinic in my insurer’s network. One was Texas MedClinic, who talked to me about the services they provide to employees, especially those on High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs). “We really encourage people to learn more about urgent care clinics. It’s not just a convenience thing; there is a huge cost component” explained Robin Schuler, Marketing Coordinator for Texas MedClinic.

Here are some great tips she provided:

The average hospital emergency room visit costs $1,500 (makes sense based on my visit) while the average Texas MedClinic visit costs under $200.

All of their services are billed centrally, meaning all doctors and staff would be in-network if your insurance applies at their location.

Some of their locations are now open 24 hours; the one in my area is open until 11 p.m. every night of the week.

Online booking has become popular to “reserve a place in line” for non-emergency items such as the flu. Their goal is to service everyone in under one hour.

The PPACA, aka healthcare reform, has a provision that distinctly outlines what is emergency care and thus covered by insurance as in-network. If my wound would have been considered an emergency, then my out-of-network doctor would have been considered in-network. I could debate whether a deep cut that refused to stop bleeding is an “emergency” but that’s for another post.

3. Maximize the free wellness exam

Everyone should know that their annual physical exam is covered at 100% by their insurance company. Make the most of this free visit:

Most of your vaccinations will be covered 100% so request them during the visit to avoid a future office call.

If you regularly take Over The Counter medications for a medical condition, such as allergies, ask your doctor to write you all the appropriate prescriptions so they become qualified expenses for your HSA or FSA.

Take the time to review your current prescriptions with your doctor, especially the more expensive ones. There may be an alternative that is just as effective but at a lower, generic price. If you decide to try a new one, ask for samples first to avoid paying for a prescription that you later decide not to fully use.

4. Remind your doctor that you are on a HDHP, especially if taking a controlled medication

I know several doctors personally and am always surprised when they ask questions about High Deductible Health Plans. The codes they check on your chart could mean the difference between a low or high cost visit. While mistakes can happen, it’s essential that you are billed and pay for the right type of visit.

Some states have laws, while other doctor’s have their own requirements, to see patients before refilling certain controlled prescriptions. While it is a worthy cause to avoid diversion of controlled substances, each of these visits cost money if not tied to your annual wellness exam. Make sure you are clear when booking your appointment that you are only visiting for a prescription check-up, notify the nurse when you see them, as well as the doctor. Ask how much the visit will cost to ensure they only charge you the necessary amount.

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