9 Ways to Save Money on Your Health Costs

December 04, 2019

If you’re like most New Year’s Resolution makers, you’re probably thinking about a resolution related to your health or your wallet. If that sounds like you, we’ve got you covered! This list is filled with tips that can help you get the most out of your health care, which can help you save money and grow healthy. 

 

Choose Generic Drugs

generic drugs

Even if you have insurance, prescriptions can be expensive. You may be able to save by asking your doctor and pharmacist if there’s a generic option available. Generic drugs are identical to the ‘brand name’ version in every way, including dosage form, safety, strength, how you take it, quality, and performance. They are reviewed, monitored, and regulated by the same organization that oversees the name brands. The only difference is that generic drugs are usually 80% to 85% less than brand name drugs. 

 

Check if Your Health Plan Offers Mail-Order Pharmacy

mail-order pharmacy

Many insurance companies offer a mail-order pharmacy program that allows you to pay for up to 90 days’ worth of medication for just the price of a single copay. You’ll also save time and gas money by having your medications delivered right to your house.

 

Talk to Your Doctor About Freebies

patient talking to her doctor

If money is an issue and paying for medication is leaving your budget thin, talk to your doctor. Ask if there are free samples of your medication. Many drug manufacturers offer programs to help patients save money on their prescriptions. Ask your doctor if their staff can help you find out if you’re eligible for any.

 

Don’t Go to an Emergency Room Unless It’s a True Emergency

emergency room signalingIt’s 2 in the morning, and your five-year-old daughter wakes up with an earache and a fever. You worry and decide that it’s too important to wait, so you go to the emergency room. You spend three hours waiting to see a doctor who prescribes children’s aspirin. Six weeks later, you get a bill for $1,300 – and that’s after your insurance paid. If you had waited to go to your normal doctor, your bill might have been $50.

Emergency room visits can be very expensive. They are for emergencies only: when there is a threat to life or limb. For everything else, your normal primary care doctor or even urgent care is a much cheaper alternative.

 

See Your Doctor Regularly

The best way to stay healthy is to see your doctor regularly for age-appropriate screenings and preventative care. Your doctor may find conditions early while they can still be treated more easily – for example, if a regular checkup reveals a patient has prediabetes, a condition that can be successfully managed with a few lifestyle changes. In many cases, if not caught early, prediabetes can worsen and become diabetes, a serious and often costly disease to treat.

 

If You’re on a Health Plan, Make Sure You See In-Network Doctors

paying for health bills

When making an appointment, check that your doctor is in your health plan’s network, even if you’ve visited them before. Some plans will only cover your visit if you see a doctor in the network, so you can save hundreds of dollars by making sure. Your membership ID card should have instructions for how to check.

 

Take Advantage of Covered Screenings 

Under the Affordable Care Act, plans purchased in the marketplace and many other plans must cover a variety of services, tests, visits, and immunizations, all at no cost to you. Some of those services include:

  • Flu shots
  • Diet counseling for adults at higher risk of chronic disease
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Breast cancer screening mammograms for women over 40
  • Tobacco use screening and cessation programs 


If You Have Private Insurance, Find Out About Wellness Programsrunning app

Many large health insurance companies offer members free wellness programs and services to help achieve common health goals, such as healthy eating, weight loss, stress management, and even discounts on over-the-counter drugs. Some insurers even offer members a discount for enrolling in wellness programs and tracking their progress.  To find out if your plan has these programs, visit your insurance’s website, or call the number on the back of your membership ID card to learn more.

 

You Don’t Need a Gym to Get Fit

woman running at the beach

If you’re looking to lose weight or tone up, skip the expensive gym membership and instead, work out with things you probably already have at home. Thanks to Southern California’s amazing weather, there are a variety of year-round outdoor exercises that can help you stay in shape.

 

We Are Here to Help

altamed building

If you don’t currently have a health plan and have questions, AltaMed is here to help! Call us so we can walk you through your options for free. 

If you have questions or concerns about your health, schedule an appointment with one of our doctors. We want you to make regular doctor visits a habit, and there are many convenient AltaMed locations for you to choose from.

 

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Your 2019-2020 Open Enrollment FAQ

November 01, 2019

We’re dedicated to helping everyone get the care they need to grow healthy—and that means empowering you to make the best decisions about you and your family’s health care needs.

This open enrollment FAQ can help you better understand your choices. If you need additional information, we’re here to help, and we can walk you through your options for free.

Get help in English: 833-444-5560
Get help in Spanish: 833-444-5570

 

Q: What is Open Enrollment?

Man reading

A: Open Enrollment is the period when you can make decisions about your health care and your insurance coverage for the next calendar year. You can choose to stay with your current plan or select a new plan that works better for your budget or your health needs.

The plan you pick can affect:

  • The price of your premiums, or the amount you pay every month for your plan
  • Which doctors and hospitals you can visit
  • How much you pay for office visits, prescriptions, and other services
  • How much you will have to pay out of your own pocket for the entire year
  • If you can get certain kinds of care (for example, dental or optometry visits)

 

Q: When is Open Enrollment?

Calendar and a heart

A: It depends on what kind of insurance or medical coverage you have. If you get your benefits through Medicare, your Open Enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7. If you get your care through Covered California, your Open Enrollment period runs from October 15 to January 31.

 

Q: If I’m Offered Coverage at My Job, Should I Take It?

A health test

A: Many people believe that if your job offers you an insurance plan, you should take it. That’s not always your best move. Even if your employer pays for part of your plan, it can still be expensive and not offer you the right kind of coverage.

Our advice is to research available plans. Depending on how much you make, you may still be eligible for coverage through Medi-Cal. You may also qualify for discounts through the Covered California marketplace. Just because your employer selected it doesn’t mean it’s the best plan for you.

 

Q: What Happens If I Don’t Choose?

Pen over a table

A: If you’re covered through Medicare, you will likely continue with the same plan you were already on. If you are on a plan through Covered California or your employer, and your plan goes away, you will automatically get assigned to a plan that offers similar coverage at a similar price.

 

Q: What Happens If I Don’t Have Coverage and Miss the Deadline?

Hand holding a pen and writing

A: If you are at a job that offers coverage but miss the deadline, you won’t be able to enroll until the following year unless you have what’s called a Qualifying Life Event (see below). You may be able to get a short-term plan, or you may be eligible for Medi-Cal or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The same is true for Covered California. If you miss your deadline to sign up for Medicare, you can enroll during the General Enrollment Period that runs from January 1 to March 31 every year. Unfortunately, your coverage won’t start until July 1.

 

Q: What’s a Qualifying Life Event?

Doctor and her patient

A: Most people need to pick their insurance plan during Open Enrollment. However, if you experience certain events (called a Qualifying Life Event, or QLE) you may be able to change, cancel, or enroll in new coverage. QLEs include:

  • Getting married
  • Having baby
  • Losing a job or experiencing a change to your income that affects your eligibility for certain plans
  • A death in the family
  • Moving to a different ZIP code
  • Becoming a U.S. citizen

 

Q: How Can I Save Money on Coverage?

Phonendoscope over dollar bills

A: If you are purchasing a plan through Covered California, make sure you apply for tax credits or cost-sharing reductions that can reduce the amount you will have to pay.

Some health insurance plans provide discounts based on your health and activities – for example, if you maintain a healthy weight, enroll in an exercise program, or participate in other activities the company requests.

If your plan doesn’t offer those discounts, there are many ways to save money on your health expenses:

  • Choose in-network doctors
  • Only visit the emergency room for true emergencies
  • Take advantage of covered health screenings: you may qualify to get preventive cancer screenings, diabetes screenings, HIV and STI tests, and many others at no cost
  • If you are given a prescription, ask if a generic version is available

 

Phone in the open enrollment app

Learn more about getting the most out of your coverage, no matter what plan you’re on. And don’t forget, we’re here for you. Call us with your questions about selecting coverage that can help your whole family grow healthy – in 2020 and for years to come.

Get help in English: 833-444-5560
Get help in Spanish: 833-444-5570

 

Open Enrollment: How to Get the Most Out of Your Benefits

October 15, 2018

Your health care plan is about much more than simply going to the doctor and getting medication when you get sick. Medicare and most commercial plans offer a number of benefits that can help you stay healthy and save money.

Not every plan offers all of these benefits, so you should contact the number on the back of your health care ID card or visit your plan’s website before you schedule an appointment.
 

Preventive services
mom and daughter at doctor

Did you know there are a number of services that you can get that will keep you and your entire family healthier – and they’re at no cost to you? Under the Affordable Care Act, health care companies cover what are called preventive services. They’re called preventive services because they can help prevent illness and disease. All in all, there are 15 covered services for children and adults, and they include:

  •  Blood pressure screening
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Type 2 diabetes screening (for adults with high blood pressure)
  • Age-appropriate immunizations for hepatitis A & B; HPV; measles, mumps, and rubella; and many others 
  • Tobacco use screenings and cessations interventions for tobacco users

You should always check coverage with your plan. You’ll still have to see a doctor that is in your network to get these services, but it’s well worth your time.
 

No-cost wellness services
yoga mat

Many plans offer free programs to help members achieve important health goals, such as losing weight, becoming more active, cooking and eating healthier, or reducing stress. For example, your plan might offer you a weight loss program that allows you to log your weight and get easy-to-use tips, recipes, exercise videos, and words of encouragement. 

These health and wellness programs are designed to be fun and easy to use, even for those who may be new to healthy habits. 
 

Mental health care
man smiling

We all know how important your mental health is, and the affect it has on your body and your family. Many insurance plans, including Medicare Part B, provide coverage for members to see a specialist, such as a psychiatrist or someone who specializes in substance abuse. 

And FYI, a depression screening with your primary care doctor is considered a preventive screening. See them first and get recommendations for next steps.


Special screenings for moms-to-be
mom and baby

You and your health plan both win when you have a happy, healthy baby. That’s why plans are required to cover special preventive services for women who are either currently pregnant or trying to get there. Besides health screenings for conditions like anemia and gestational diabetes, you should be covered for lactation support and breast pumps.
 

Nurse Line
call center nurse

It’s 3 am and your six-year-old just woke you up with a cough and a temperature of 99 degrees. Maybe it’s nothing, but you’d sleep better if you could get some advice. Call the nurse advice line. It’s a great way to avoid an expensive trip to the emergency room, and you can get help right when you need it. 

Your health plan’s nurse advice line is available 24/7. Call them anytime to talk to a licensed, registered nurse to find out more about common health issues. You can also call the AltaMed nurse advice line at (866) 266-5092.

If you’re experiencing a true medical emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room.
 

Save on your medication
meds


If you have prescription coverage, you can save even more with generic drugs. In most cases, they are totally identical to the “name brand,” at a fraction of the cost. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist about them.

Many health care plans also offer mail order services. In some cases, you could pay less for your prescriptions. Even if you don’t, you’re still saving several trips to the pharmacy. 

Still need some help for Open Enrollment?
AltaMed is here to walk you through your Open Enrollment options for free. Let us help you make smart choices to help you and your family grow healthy.

Get help in English: 833-444-5560
Get help in Spanish: 833-444-5570