When I turned 60, I was unexpectedly jolted by a large health insurance premium increase. My helpful wife pointed out how much we were paying out-of-pocket medical expenses. This prompted us to do a major review of what we were spending. The objective: to see what we could do to reduce our medical costs – especially now that we are semi-retired.
I’m here to tell you that we’ve been able to substantially save on our medical costs, mostly by just being smarter about it all and continuing to stay proactive. Here’s how we did it!
Since we were self-employed and paying our own premiums, the raises at age 60 were really hurting. We both shopped around and I was able to change from Blue Cross Blue Shield to Aetna. The switch saved us a whopping $261 per month! And, this was for similar coverage! My new policy has dental coverage for two preventive visits per year saving me another $225. My wife has a preexisting condition and wasn’t able to get a better rate. Anyway, our annual savings comes to $3,357. The moral of this story is, simple: shop around and don’t settle.
You can’t trust your doctor’s office to do this for you. They don’t know your coverage and don’t know how many visits you have had or how much you have spent towards your deductible. Calling your insurance company yourself is a major way to save on medical costs. Call the 800 number on your insurance card and tell them of your planned visit to a medical office and the purpose. Find out if it will be covered and if they have any suggestions. A lot of times it just depends on when, where, and to whom you go for medical treatment. It can make all the difference in how much comes out of your pocket. Always call and take notes on who you talked to and what they said. Do not rely solely on the coverage books the company sends or online information. Make the call.
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For example for my annual routine eye exam, I used to visit a board-certified ophthalmologist, a specialist in medical and surgical eye problems. The cost was $110 per visit and my insurance was not covering any of it since I did not have vision care. I called my insurance company to see what was covered and they said they covered eye exams by an optometrist, an eye care professional, like those at LensCrafters, so I changed. Now, I get the same comprehensive eye exam for less. The annual savings is $110.
Your policy may have a limited number of covered doctor visits per year. You should keep this in mind if you have met your annual deductible. Don’t delay needed medical treatment; but, scheduling routine visits to your advantage really helps keep your cost down.
My wife needs an overnight sleep study for apnea so the doctor’s office scheduled it last December saying they had checked and it would be a covered expense as a doctor visit. Well, she had a 6-visit coverage limit on her policy, which they didn’t know about. My wife knew she had used her 6 visits and rescheduled the sleep study to January. It was covered. The annual saving for strategically scheduling visits has been $1,800.
Call your insurance company to find a doctor in their network. This can make a huge difference. My story is that for my annual physical, I tried to look up a doctor near me that was in my insurance company’s network. There were so many plans like mine that I couldn’t tell for sure which plan I had. I selected a doctor and called their office to verify that they were in the network. The person on the phone said they couldn’t tell either. I went ahead, and, as it turned out, it was not covered. I paid $400!
This year, I called my insurance company for an in-network doctor. Come to find out that there was a doctor in the same office I went to last year that was in my network. Thre annual savings for using only in-network doctors has been $400!
The above steps result in a saving of $5,673 in just one year! I feel we received just as good, if not better medical service too! We will continue to be proactive in managing our medical expenses. I know there are lots more ways to save on medical expenses to be learned. But, one thing is for sure: no one will manage our medical expenses better than us. You can do it too by simply realizing you can make a difference by jumping in to ask questions and make some changes.
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Originally published April 03, 2023
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