January 31, 2020
For many people, January is a fresh new beginning. In the health insurance world, it is the well-known “reset button” on meeting your health plan’s annual deductible. Given that the majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and a growing number are enrolled in high-deductible plans, the stress of meeting deductibles is very real. So we thought it would be a good time to share some helpful ideas that could help employees better manage out-of-pocket expenses.
- Provide and overview of the health care services that are available at no cost or a lower cost than an office visit. For example, suggest that employees:
- Try telemedicine. This cost-efficient benefit is often offered as a value add to their existing health plan. The cost of a telemedicine visit is usually around $40-$50, and can be scheduled at your convenience via phone or video chat.
- Consult with a nurse for free by calling the nurse-line of your health plan for consultation before scheduling an appointment with a physician; it could save you the cost of an office visit.
- Take advantage of preventive services covered at 100%. For example, get a flu shot so you are less likely to get sick.
- Consider a “convenience care” clinic located in stores like CVS, Target, or Walgreens. They offer a limited number of services at a lower cost that urgent care or a physician office visit.
- Use in-network providers for the lowest possible out-of-pocket costs. If you need to see a specialist, ask for an in-network referral.
2. Offer tips to manage prescriptions drug costs:
- When your doctor recommends a prescription drug, take the informed consumer approach and asks how much it costs and if there is an over-the-counter or generic option. Use prescriptions tools that are no cost to you like GoodRx that offers coupons and checks the nearest pharmacies to your location for the best price.
- If a newly prescribed drug is very expensive and does not have a generic option available, ask whether you could have a smaller number of pills at first to be sure it works. Also, ask the pharmacy if there are patient assistance programs to help defray the cost.
3. Promote the use of transparency tools
- A variety of tools exist to encourage healthcare consumers to shop around for services and tests. Check with your insurance company if you are not familiar with their transparency tool or need a refresher.
- This is the perfect time to remind employees about tools that help them find out the cost of services. Promote the tools by providing examples and training opportunities.
4. A few new ideas. If you don’t have these financial management tools in place today, it would be worth investigating them for next year to help with the January out-of-pocket medical expense panic:
- Some HSA vendors will advance reimbursement for medical bills based on amount committed from paycheck for the year.
- Some EOB (Explanation of Benefits) aggregators will pay the amount due to the provider and assist the employee with a payment plan interest free.
Given that financial issues is a top stressor for individuals, anything you can do to help alleviate the burden of health care costs will contribute to a more productive employee and that is a real plus for your company. Contact us to discuss how we can pro-actively address this for your employees !