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Get The Max For Your Healthcare Dollar

Here are three common-sense steps that you can take to help the maximum benefit for your healthcare dollar and health insurance dollar.

1. Be Informed

Read your health insurance policy and member handbook. Make sure you understand them, especially the information on benefits, coverage, and limits. Contact your agent or insurance company if you have a question.

Find out if your plan has a magazine, newsletter, and/or website. These can be a good source of information on how the plan works.

If you have a PPO or HMO, be familiar with your Provider Network. Keep the web address or a copy of the network directory handy.

2. Take Charge

If you haven't done so, establish a medical file with a local, family practice physician who provides an on-call service 24 hours a day. With the exception of a true medical emergency, this is the office you want to call first whenever care is needed, either day or night. You don't want to be hesitant to call your doctor, or an "on call" associate, even at 2 a.m.

Know and utilize your plan's "wellness" benefits. Discuss with your doctor your risk of getting certain conditions. What lifestyle choices might you need to make to lower your risks or prevent illness?

When speaking with your doctor, don't be bashful. Ask questions and insist on clear answers.

Whenever a surgery is recommended, never hesitate to seek a second medical opinion. Check your policy. Many health plans contain provisions which encourage a second medical opinion.

Ask about the risks and benefits of tests and treatments. Tell your doctor what you like and dislike about your choices for care.

Make sure you understand and can follow the doctor's instructions.

3. Keep Track

Write down any health concerns. Start a health log of symptoms to help you better explain your symptoms when you meet with your doctor.

Set up health files for family members at home. This will help you to monitor care. It will also help you when you need to file a claim (see Tips - Insurance Claims). Include health histories of shots, illnesses, treatments, and hospital visits. Ask for copies of lab results.

Know your medications, noting side effects and other problems (such as other drugs and foods that should not be taken at the same time).

Check your prescriptions carefully when filled. Mistakes are not uncommon (see Tips - Prevent Medical Errors).

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