Showing posts with label Health Care and Health Care Savings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health Care and Health Care Savings. Show all posts


SOS Mom Saver: Saving Money On Health Costs

Sometimes, we cannot avoid expensive medical procedures.  If you have a low or no deductible, then there's likely no stress when this happens.  If, however, you have a higher deductible, the cost of these procedures matters greatly.

Did you know that you can negotiate health care costs?  Before you start attempting to do so, though, you'll need to know a few things.  Most of them can be found out by calling your insurance company.
  • Is there a co-pay for the procedure you're needing to have done.  You may find that for some procedures that there is a co-pay.  If, for example, the co-pay for an MRI is $100, then you likely can just stop here.  You're not going to get an MRI for cheaper than that.
  • What is your deductible & how much of it have you met to date?
  • After you have paid your deductible, what is your co-insurance amount?  (In other words, what percentage of the cost do you have to pay after you have met your deductible.  This is typically 10%, 20%, or 30%.)  
  • What, if any, is your total out-of-pocket max for the year?  (For example, a person might have a $1,000 deductible and a co-insurance after of 20%, but they don't have to pay more than $5,000 total out-of-pocket every year.)  Usually, this number does not take into account co-pays which aren't included in your out-of-pocket maximum.
  • Is there a facility you must use for the ordered procedure?
Once you know these questions, you can then call the facility you must use for your insurance and ask them the last question:
  • What is the contracted amount with your insurance for the procedure?  
  • They may try to tell you that this will depend on your benefits, etc.  The contracted amount is a pre-determined amount that they have agreed they will charge.  This doesn't change according to your benefits.  The only thing your benefits determine is how much of that contracted amount YOU will pay.  Tell them that you know your insurance benefits & just need to know their contracted amount.  If they won't give it to you, go in & request it.  (Although I have always gotten the information over the phone.)
Once you are armed with this information, then you can know...UP much you will be required to pay.  Here's how you figure that out:
  • You have a $1,000 deductible and 20% co-insurance.  The contracted amount for the procedure is $1200.  You have not yet met any of your deductible for the year.  You will be required to pay $1040.  (Your $1,000 deductible and 20% of the remaining $200.)  Here's another example:
  • You have a $1,000 deductible and 20% co-insurance.  The contracted amount for the procedure is $1200.  You have met $600 of your deductible for the year.  You will be required to pay $560.  (The remaining $400 of your deductible and 20% of the remaining $800 charge.)
If you are not comfortable with what you will be required to pay, then you can proceed from there to find a cheaper rate elsewhere.  It is vital to know what you will actually pay before continuing, though.  Attempting to find a cheaper rate is simple:
  • Call providers in your area who provide the procedure you have been asked to have. (Don't forget to also call the place that is contracted through your insurance.)
  • Ask them what their cash price is.  It really is that simple.
  • Don't forget to ask if the price they give you includes contrast if that will be required (such as for an MRI).
If you find someone with a cheaper cash price than what you'll be required to pay using your insurance, you just take the order your doctor gave you to that facility and pay cash instead.  Don't even mention to them that you have insurance.

The only bad I have ever seen to doing things this way is that the cash you pay won't go towards your deductible or yearly out-of-pocket max.  We've had some plans with deductibles as high as $8,000 so for just wasn't necessary to worry about a particular procedure's cost going towards that deductible. 

Disclaimer:  I am not suggesting that you do this without fully understanding the risks involved (that the money you pay won't go towards your deductible &/or yearly out-of-pocket max).  "They" always suggest that you consult with your doctor, insurance provider, &/or financial provider before deciding to move forward with anything like this.  We decided that moving forward with this was beneficial to us and our situation.  As I cannot look at everyone's situations, you must decide for yourself whether this is a good idea for your family or not.


SOS Mom Saver: Make Money on Prescriptions!

I think it's fairly safe to say that regardless of your views on the issue, most of us probably have health care on our minds right about now. I thought I'd use this opportunity to help you think of your prescriptions in an entirely different way.

I have a prescription that I have filled monthly (or every 3 months). I rarely have it filled without getting paid for it in some way. CVS, Walgreens, Target, & many local grocery stores will frequently have offers of gift cards in the amount of $10-$25 if you'll transfer your prescription to their pharmacy. If my script is at Walgreens, I transfer it to CVS & vice-versa.

I have been doing this for many years. I started taking regular meds 5 or so years ago & have been transferring ever since. The only time I didn't was when our insurance company required that all long-term meds be filled through mail-order. This was back before the local pharmacies offered mail-order themselves.

I can't even tell you how much I've made in gift cards over the years. Easily over a thousand. At least. I know that's a serious under-estimate because at one point I was on 3 meds every month every one of which was transferred to a different pharmacy with a new promotion every month. Most of those promotions were for $25-$35 each.

In other words, if you are on regular meds, you pretty much don't have to ever again pay out of pocket even for your co-pay if you play it right. Seriously.

These usually have a fairly long expiration date on them. For example, the most recent one for CVS came out this last Sunday (March 21st), but doesn't expire until May 4th. That gives you plenty of time to need to fill another script. Keep in mind that most insurance companies will allow you to fill one week before a monthly prescription is up & a full month before a 3 month prescription is up. If you're self-pay, you can fill them whenever you like so long as they're not a controlled substance & don't exceed the number of refills allowed by your doctor for the year.

No regular prescriptions to transfer? No worries! This might apply to you too! Most of these coupons specify in that pesky fine print that they also apply to new prescriptions. You never know when someone in your family might unexpectedly need a script filled. I'd say it's definitely worth it to hang on to the coupon until it expires just in case!

You can match these at some Wal-Mart stores, but that varies widely by location. I'd say it's at least worth a call to your local Wal-Mart to find out.

Some stores (not just Wal-Mart, but CVS, Walgreens, etc as well) will even match a competitor's coupon to keep you FROM transferring your prescription. If you're happy where you're at, it pays to ask. Don't think that because one store in a chain (CVS, Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, etc) tells you no that another won't do it. That's not necessarily true. Pharmacies have leniency in how they handle transfer coupons from store to store & region to region. Some will have more freedom than others depending on their district manager & even based on their sales that month (or the previous month). You might get a no this month, but a yes next month because their numbers were bad last month & they have to make up for it. In this case, you truly never know unless you ask...and you very well might get a yes!

Below is the offer that was put out by CVS this past Sunday. Note: This is only to give you an idea of what the coupons look like. This offer is NOT valid unless you have the original coupon which can be found in the weekly ad kept at the front of the stores, mailed to your home, or found in your Sunday paper. You CANNOT copy & print this & have it work!

CVS Prescription Gift Card Offer Thoughts of THAT Mom
It does say good at Nevada stores only. Don't worry. It said the same thing when we lived in Michigan & saw papers in Oklahoma. They make them state-specific so you can't trade for them online & get one from Florida to use in Nevada.

You will want to also note that if you have a prescription for a controlled substance (like a regulated pain killer such as morphine), you may not be able to easily transfer it from pharmacy to pharmacy. Some states as well as some localities have restrictions on this. Don't worry, they won't let you transfer the script if you can't. I just wanted to give you fair warning in case you encountered this.

If you have a regular prescription to fill, do you commonly use transfer coupons like this? If not, why?