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5 ways to save on health care costs today

The health care system is complex and health care costs are on the rise. It can feel as though health care costs are out of our control – and that’s because, a lot of the time, they are. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t play an active role in reducing our health care costs. Here are five ways to save on your next health care expense.

1. Make the most of your Health Savings Account (HSA)

According to Bank of America’s 2019 Workplace Benefits Report, only 11% of employees fully understand HSAs. That’s low – especially given that HSAs provide a way to enjoy tax benefits immediately. In the long term, HSAs may be used to supplement retirement savings.

Here’s how an HSA works to save you money, today. Eligible HSA account holders are able to contribute pre-tax earnings to their accounts. (Alternatively, if the HSA is set up by an individual rather than through an employer, the individual will be able to claim tax deductions for HSA contributions.) The pre-tax dollars that go into the account are designed to be used towards health care purchases. Essentially, the account holder can make tax-free health care purchases.

2. Choose an in-network provider, when possible

What does “in-network” mean? First, insurance companies contract with physicians, hospitals and other providers to purchase medical services at discounted rates for their customers. From there, insurers design specific health plans with different providers and different pricing levels. The providers under contract for that plan are considered “in-network.”

There are many doctors and hospitals out there. And as part of our efforts to keep costs down, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina works closely with many North Carolina hospitals and physicians to help get you access to quality, affordable care, when you need it.

You can make sure the doctor you’ve selected is in your network by using the Provider Search tool. Let this tool guide you if you are in need of a specialist. Or, just call the doctor’s office to ask if he or she is in-network.

3. Choose a deductible plan that meets your needs

Each year, we know you face choices when it comes to deciding what kind of health insurance best suits your needs and your budget. High-deductible plans are attractive because they generally have lower premiums, which is what you pay each month for coverage.

There is a tradeoff in exchange for lower premiums. For starters, your insurance doesn’t kick in until you’ve met your annual deductible, which could be several thousand dollars. And when you do meet your deductible, you may still have a co-pay or co-insurance or both. In addition, high-deductible plans are frequently linked with a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) to help cover out-of-pocket costs. These can offer tax-deferred savings on health care expenses, as mentioned above.

4. Learn about prescription costs and coverage

If you are currently on medication or need some in the future, it is important to understand your prescription benefits which are explained in your benefits booklet.

In addition, there are ways you can begin saving on prescription drug prices today. To begin, talk to your doctor about less expensive alternatives. This may also include exploring generic versions of brand-name drugs. These are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as equivalent. This means that generic versions provide the same health benefits as their brand-name counterparts, usually at a lower out-of-pocket cost to you.

Lastly, here are a few great resources as well: How prescription benefits work and/or Find a drug or pharmacist.

5. Try these valuable tools and programs

These tools may help you to save on everything from gym memberships to doctor’s appointments:

  • Blue 365 Deals – Exclusive discounts on the latest fitness gear and health programs.
  • Ask a Nurse – Health Line Blue is a 24/7 nurse line to ask questions or get assistance.
  • Nutritional Counseling – Nutritional counseling with a registered dietitian.
  • Wellness Activities – Healthy conversations, seminars, and virtual coaching.
  • Telemedicine – Using a phone, the internet or mobile app doctors are available to treat a variety of medical conditions like allergies, fever, flu, insect bites, sore throats, and urinary infections.
  • Healthy Outcomes Program – Track and measure health goals (Sign up in Blue Connect).
  • HealthWise Knowledgebase – Our online health encyclopedia lets you look up a wide variety of symptoms, health conditions, medical tests, treatments and goals (Sign up in Blue Connect).
  • SmartShopper – SmartShopper is a tool that makes it simpler than ever to find lower-cost medical procedures. It lets members price shop for over 80 common procedures like colonoscopies and knee replacements. The best part? They can get paid up to $500 per procedure for making cost-effective choices for the care they already need.
  • Health Care Cost Estimator – Compare the cost of various health care services at facilities near you.
Charlene Macielag
Charlene Macielag

Principal Communications Specialist

Charlene Macielag is a principal communications specialist at Blue Cross NC with a passion for social media marketing and storytelling.

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Disclosures:

HealthEquity is an independent company that is solely responsible for the financial services it is providing. HealthEquity does not offer Blue Cross or Blue Shield products or services. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina collaborates with Health Equity, a preferred vendor for all Fund Management Accounts.

Consult IRS Publication 969 for more information on how HSA funds can be used.

By law, HSAs are limited to individuals who have high deductible health plans (HDHPs) and no other disqualifying health coverage. That information can be found at www.irs.gov. You can also find more guidelines and information about opening an HSA.)