Are You a Wise Health Care Consumer?

The way we acquire health care is unlike most other purchases we make in our lives. However, when it comes to health care, we rarely ask questions or consider all the options that could save us time and money. 

Below are a few tips for becoming a wise health care consumer.

Health Care Costs & Your Employer

The cost of health care, and consequently health insurance premiums, are rising at an alarming rate. While this is not a new phenomenon, the extremity of recent increases is cause for concern for both employers and employees.

Unfortunately, it is likely that your employer will continue to receive substantial annual premium increases for the next several years. You can expect some of these costs to be passed on to you in the form of larger contributions being deducted from your paychecks or in the form of higher deductibles, coinsurance amounts or co-payments.

Making conscientious health care decisions is vital to keeping your employer’s health care costs down, as well as the costs that are passed on to you. The more knowledge you have about your personal health and the treatments you are receiving, the more you can control your out-of-pocket costs as well.

Ask Your Doctor Questions

Surprisingly, many patients do not ask their doctor basic questions about such concerns as treatment costs and effectiveness, as well as risks and side effects.

Patients often blindly accept their doctors’ advice without truly understanding what treatment alternatives are available, and what – if any – differences there are in cost and successfulness among those options. Many health plans still allow a lot of freedom in your choice of physicians. If you have such a plan, your doctor has little incentive to find the perfect balance between treatment effectiveness and cost effectiveness - unless you ask.

Having a conversation with your physician can help you better understand how his or her care decisions affect your health plan costs. It will also help your doctor get to know you better and prescribe treatment that is more effective.

Prescription Drug Decisions

Many people believe there is a difference between generic and brand name prescription drugs. The truth is a generic drug is virtually the same as a brand name drug, with few exceptions.

The difference between generic and brand name medications lies in the name of the drug and the cost. Generic drugs cost much less than brand name drugs, save you and your employer money, and provide the same health benefits as brand name drugs.

The next time your doctor writes you a prescription, ask if a generic equivalent is available. If so, your physician can instruct your pharmacist to use a generic substitute.

You should also know that in many cases less expensive but effective alternatives to well-known drugs exist. Because of a surge in direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing of prescription drugs, patients have become more familiar with certain drugs and often believe that these high profile, high cost drugs are automatically the best option for treating their condition.

Outpatient vs. Inpatient Care

Outpatient care is often a much better alternative to inpatient care, for a variety of reasons. It can provide the same level of quality treatment as inpatient care, and is less costly.

If you need to have surgery, ask your doctor if laboratory tests can be done in a clinic rather than a hospital. Moreover, in many cases, the surgery itself can be performed in a clinic or outpatient surgical facility, often resulting in a better outcome for you. Outpatient surgical facilities give you the ability to recover in the comfort of your home instead of in a hospital.

With numerous options available in today’s health plans, check with your plan administrator or insurance carrier to find out exactly what your plan offers.  Caravus’ Employee Benefit Consultants are also available to answer clients’ questions about their specific plan.