CONTACT: Jenna McPhee
BOSTON January 25, 2010 The beginning of the end of the national recession may be in sight, but financial experts say a full recovery is still a long way off. People should be cautious with their money, and look for ways to reduce their spending. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) is offering tips to help people save money on health care costs during these uncertain times.
"Until the economy bounces back, people will look for ways to cut costs wherever they can," said Dr. John Fallon, Chief Physician Executive at BCBSMA. "But when it comes to our health, we have to be smart about the decisions we make. We offer these tips, which can improve one's health, as well as reduce costs to health care consumers."
These tips not only address short-term health care costs, they're designed to help people develop a long-term strategy to better manage their health and health care spending:
Tips for Saving on Care and Improving Your Health:
1. Manage Your Health Care Spending AccountRemember to submit 2009 claims for reimbursement from your flexible spending account (FSA). You have until March 31 to submit for reimbursement of eligible expenses from the previous year. If you don't use it you lose it. Some companies allow for a grace period so that you can pay for eligible expenses incurred this year with last year's FSA, but that deadline may be near so be sure to check with your employer to see if your FSA has a grace period.
2. Ask for Pre-Tax PremiumsAsk your employer if they'd consider allowing you to pay for your premiums with pre-tax dollars. By using pre-tax dollars, you can reduce your income tax and ultimately save money.
3. Stay In-NetworkUse doctors and specialists in your health plans' network. Out-of-network care drives up your share of the health care bill. If you're unsure if a provider is in your plan's network, simply give your plan a call or check online.
4. Participate in Wellness ProgramsJoin a gym, a weight-loss program, or quit smoking. Most health plans offer discounts or rebates if you take part in a wellness program. Many communities offer free and low-cost programs that could improve your healthcheck with your community's Park and Recreation department or Senior Center to see what's available. Exercise, losing weight and quitting smoking reduce your chances of developing asthma, diabetes, or cardiac problems which can not only impact your health, but also dramatically increase what you spend on health care. Besides saving money, benefits include reduced stress, weight management and an overall healthier you, resulting in fewer trips to the doctor.
5. Use Online ResourcesMost health plans provide their members with a variety of online resources that can help you live healthier. Sites like BCBSMA's ahealthyme.com offer information on health conditions, support for those trying to lose weight or quit smoking, recipes for dieters and much more. Sites like livinghealthybabies.com are a valuable resource for pregnancy information and education. People with chronic conditions like Diabetes, Asthma, and Cancer can get information and tools specifically for their condition on line from organization such as the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society.
6. Ask a NurseNurse help lines, available through some health plans, can help you determine if you need to see a doctor for a health care issue or treat it yourself at home. This can save you an unnecessary trip to the hospital or doctor's office, as well as the co-pay. Ask your plan what resources may be available to you.
7. Visit the DoctorDon't avoid the doctor if you have a persistent medical issue. If you let a nagging issue wait, you might end up in the emergency room or requiring extensive care, costing you more money than if you went to see your doctor at the onset of the problem. Also, remember to take advantage of preventative care. Getting an annual physical can help you stay healthy and avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor.
8. Get Discounts on Complimentary CareIf you visit complimentary care providers such as a dietician, a chiropractor, a masseuse or an acupuncturist check with your health plan to see if discounts are available for this kind of care. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts offers this through our Living Healthy Naturally program.
9. Ask QuestionsBe an engaged patient. Research shows that patients who ask questions, stay informed, and get involved in their own health care are healthier, which ultimately saves money.
10. Save on PrescriptionsAlways ask your physician when he or she is prescribing medication if there is a generic or lower-cost alternative. Generics are as effective as their name brand counter-part and new generics come on the market frequently. Also, certain drugs may now be available over the counter at a lower cost. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before making any medication changes.
For more information please visit bluecrossma.com.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts ( http://www.bluecrossma.com ) was founded more than 70 years ago by a group of community-minded business leaders. Today, headquartered in Boston, BCBSMA provides coverage to more than 3 million members, 2.5 million in Massachusetts. BCBSMA believes in rewarding doctors and hospitals for delivering safe and effective care, and in empowering patients to take more responsibility, become educated health care consumers and become stronger partners with their doctors. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.