BSA Medical Plans: Becoming a Smarter Health Care Consumer
Being a smarter consumer of health care services is about making decisions on the cost and quality of health care before you make the purchase. The BSA’s new High-Deductible with HSA Plan is designed to help you do just that. In fact, it has two important goals.
- To provide you with enough cost and quality of care information to make informed health care purchasing decisions.
- To encourage you to have more personal involvement in your health treatment.
It’s what we call health care consumerism. When it comes to making purchasing decisions, health care should be no different from any other purchasing decisions we make. Moving your cost from monthly premiums to deductibles, you now have the opportunity to save or spend your money to your best advantage.
It is your money, so you will want to know the price of the services you are buying or weigh the cost against the benefits of various treatment options. In addition, you might decide against receiving care that isn’t necessary, or make sure the care you do receive is of the highest quality.
With the HSA Plan, the big change you may notice is how health care services are paid. You will have what is called a high-deductible health plan. So long as you are HSA-eligible, you have the option of opening your personal health savings account, or HSA, to help you save money income tax-free for qualified medical expenses. This can include expenses you have before you meet your deductible or costs that may not be covered by your health plan, like dental and vision.
Medical plans with health savings accounts (HSA) are not new—millions of people are already taking advantage of the opportunity to become better health care consumers by taking more control over their health and increasing the reach of their health care dollars.
What you need to know as a health care consumer
Here are some important things you should know as you begin to become a more educated consumer of health care:
Doctors and hospitals can charge different rates for the same service.
Most people don’t really know the true cost of health care services. We’ve gotten used to paying a smaller portion or percentage of the actual cost of care. Many people may think the cost of a routine doctor’s visit is only $20. But the $20 may only reflect a copayment or coinsurance amount, when the average cost is at least $155, depending on the type of visit. In some cases, the cost difference between health care providers can be hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, based on the region, the service, or treatment, among other things.
Most adults don’t receive the medical care they need.
Medical care varies widely, which often leads to varying care and results. If the results are ineffective or poor, then more care may be needed, requiring even more medical expense to you. In fact, adults receive recommended medical treatment only 55 percent of the time. This may mean that you are not getting the care you need. By being a more informed consumer, you can ensure you are getting quality care that is right for you.
More procedures and expensive services don’t mean better care.
In many cases, receiving more medical procedures can be more harmful than beneficial, such as exposure to radiation through unnecessary radiology. More than five years ago, The Wall Street Journal ran a story about the cost of MRI scans and how more expensive scans were not necessarily better. In fact, many of the least expensive scans were of the highest quality. This continues to be the case in many health care situations, ranging from lab work to prescription medications.
A hospital emergency room may not be the best choice.
More than fifty percent of emergency room visits are unnecessary. An E.R. visit will cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000. So when someone visits the E.R. for non-emergency care, we all pay more. If it’s a true emergency, you shouldn’t hesitate to go to the E.R. But if the condition isn’t urgent, you should check with your own doctor first. You can also call myNurseLineto help you determine which level of care you need. myNurseLine nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call myNurseLine at 1-866-529-1680 or log on to myuhc.comto find an appropriate care setting. By contacting your own doctor or myNurseLine for non-emergencies, and by knowing what other options are available to you, such as urgent care clinics, you can choose the care that works best for you and your budget.
Using doctors and hospitals in the UnitedHealthcare network may save you money.
The BSA medical plans administered by UnitedHealthcare gives you a large, national network of more than 676,000 doctors and 5,100 hospitals and other health care facilities. UnitedHealthcare works with network providers so that they offer services at a lower cost to you. If you decide to get care outside of the UnitedHealthcare network, you’ll be covered, but it might be at a higher cost. Where you choose to get care can make a big difference.
Take advantage of preventive care, especially when it’s covered 100 percent.
With the HSA Plan, one of the most important features is that you have 100 percent coverage and protection right away for preventive care services like routine physical examinations, well-baby and well-child care, immunizations, screenings and related labs and x-rays.