Please welcome Mr. Serious who has assisted in writing this sponsored post about making smart choices with your health care. It’s safe to say he’s a health care and health plan nut!
Health insurance and health care has changed a lot in the past 10 years. I’m having this entered into a contest for biggest understatement of the century. Much of that change has been for the… wait for it, better. Yes, I said it. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of things wrong with U.S. health care, like rising insurance premiums, excessive government involvement, limited insurance options in some areas and ridiculous prescription drug ads on TV (feel free to leave your opinions in the comments on other things that are wrong). However, there are now more choices than ever on how to get care, which is a great thing, IF you know your options and make smart choices.
I’ve teamed up with UnitedHealthcare to share “6 Smart Choices for Care”, which breaks down 6 options for where to go when you need health care, so you can save money and time without sacrificing the quality of care. When you have a high-deductible plan, those savings go right into your pocket by keeping your doctor bills low. The insurance nerd in me has to mention this, that making smart health care choices also saves you and your fellow insured breatheren money in premiums in future years. If you are in a small group plan with your employer or other organization, this is especially true. So, if you’ve met your out-of-pocket max or if you’re one of the few folks left with a copay plan, making smart, cost-effective choices is still the way to go – especially for your own convenience.
Ok, so what are these smart choices?
I’ve used them all over the years, in different situations. Hopefully, my experiences will help you make better choices in the future. I’d love to hear your experience of when you made the right, or wrong, health care choice so we can all learn together.
Nurse Line: FREE
I fell asleep in the chair once, and the next day my ankle and foot was swollen – like huge! I called the Nurse Line available for free from my health plan (number on the back of the ID card) and they were able to discern that it was just the pooling of fluids from sleeping in a sitting position, and that it should go away soon. It did, and I saved money by hearing that for free instead of paying a doc to tell me the same thing. Plus it’s available 24/7 for those after-hours questions and can serve as your “triage” for helping you decide on what health care option to pick.
Virtual Visit: $
Also known as telemedicine. Krystyn has used this multiple times when the girls got pink eye. This is great for when you need a prescription for something minor, like allergies, rash or the flu. The doc on the other end of the camera sends the script right to your pharmacy for an easy pickup. It definitely beats sitting in a waiting room and dragging your sick kid all across town. If you have a drive-thru pharmacy, you don’t even have to get out of your jammies. Plus, it’s available 24/7 so you can connect early in the morning when your kid wakes up and you know she’s sick, so you don’t have to wait for the doc’s office to open.
Primary Care: $$
Even with all of these options, it is still important to have a relationship with a quality primary care practice (PCP). I emphasize “quality” here, because if your PCP is bad and doesn’t meet your needs, you should fire them! I use this option for annual preventive care visits, labs/tests and discussing any health issues. I also get my annual motivation to eat better and excercise, also known as my lipid panel.
Convenience Care Clinic: $$
Convenience is in the name of this option, which is what it is all about. This is the next option in line if the three above don’t cut it, either for severity of illness or if your PCP isn’t open or doesn’t have time to see you right away. I’ve gone to a convenience care clinic, like CVS Minute Clinic or Walgreens Take Care clinic, for a flu shot and diagnosing illnesses that need visual inspection – like an ear infection.
Urgent Care Center: $$$
This is the trickiest option for understanding how to use. It’s the last stop before going to the super-expensive and time-consuming emergency room. I ended up taking my daughter to an urgent care after hours to get her foot stitched up while we were on vacation (thank you to whoever dropped glass into that lake in Michigan…). That’s just one example. Think of this as ER-light. You can typically get stitches, x-rays and sometimes they will treat minor broken bones, like a finger. You would go here if you have a sprain or strain that you think could be a break.
Emergency Room: $$$$$ (I could just keep adding dollar signs to this one…)
Thank goodness we have emergency rooms! Which leads me to my other statement, that I never want to go to the ER. So, let’s keep the “E” in ER, and only use it for emergencies. You should definitely go to the ER, or call 911, if you are bleeding heavily, have chest pains, shortness of breath or have a major burn. Stroke symptoms are another reason to make a beeline for the ER. Otherwise, try to make use of one of these other options to save your wallet and your time. We called 911 one time that Krystyn had shortness of breath, because it was scary and we didn’t know if it would escalate into something worse. We ended up not going to the ER, but it was a close call. You don’t save money if you’re dead, so don’t eliminate this option, but use it as a last resort, i.e., emergency!
So, yes, there are some health care changes for the better IF you make smart choices.
Tell me about your smart, or not-so-smart, health care choice in the comments. It’s a judgment-free zone, all in the spirit of learning and encouragement.