How to take full advantage of your health insurance plan

There’s nothing like losing your health insurance coverage, becoming self-insured, dealing with COBRA, and moving to make you take full advantage of your health insurance plan. That’s exactly what I did this past 18 months after my husband was laid off and changed jobs twice.

When we knew we were losing my husband’s employer provided health insurance with Cigna, and going to COBRA, then self-insurance with Cigna, we renewed prescriptions and had our teeth cleaned. I also went for my yearly OB-GYN exam and had a mammogram.

Now that my husband is back at work and we’ve moved to Georgia – and ironically the entire family is covered once again by CIGNA – we’re trying to make sure we still take advantage of all the benefits due to us from yearly exams and blood work to well-check appointments for the kids.

How are you taking advantage of your medical insurance? Even if you have insurance through your employer, there are a lot of out-of-pocket expenses involved. That’s why Cigna recommends you take a mid-year healthcare cost evaluation to make sure your health plan is working hard for you and your family.

PLAN your expenses: Cigna suggest that you budget and plan for health expenses like braces, Lasik, eye glasses, and operations. Don’t forget about those deductibles, too! I recently had a shot in my shoulder to relieve rotator cuff pain. I’ve been down this road before so I knew it would be considered “surgery” and come out of my deductible. Since I have some other things coming up that will have to be covered by my deductible, I’m making they all get done this year so I get maximum payout.

When you plan your medical budget, don’t forget about prescriptions! Take advantage of any cost savings your plan offers, like mail ordering prescriptions or using certain pharmacies. Talk with your pharmacist to see what savings they offer. If you get your meds at retailers like Walmart, Costco, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Kroger, etc., many offer special plans or savings on generic drugs. You can also work with your doctor and insurance to get maximum value on prescriptions – for example, paying your copay once on a 60-day supply of meds versus twice on two 30-day prescriptions.

PREPARE for emergencies: Cigna suggests that you know where the nearest urgent care facility is that is covered by your insurance. These facilities provide the same quality of care for non-emergent conditions as an ER, but have shorter wait times and are usually less expensive. In advance, find out if they offer minor emergency room services, like stitching up cuts and wounds. Many doctor’s offices are offering similar minor ER services, especially in more rural areas, so ask your doctor, too.

Check your health plan to see if they offer a 24/7 nurse hotline to provide you with health-related advice around the clock. When Nathan was little I loved that I could call into the nurse hotline at Denver Children’s Hospital to find out if I needed to come in or not. See if your local children’s hospital has a similar service if your health insurance plan does not.

Cigna also suggests that you have the phone number handy for your local pharmacy so prescriptions can be called in quickly, right from the doctor’s office. I find that many doctors’ offices provide this service, and I’ve had doctors do it themselves straight from the laptops they brought with them during the exam. Either way saves time, so take advantage of it!

PREVENTION is the key: Make sure you, your spouse/partner, and your kids have a yearly check up since this is usually covered by your health insurance. (Heck, remind your mom and dad, too!) My kids usually get theirs around their birthdays. I have mine during back to school time, including a mammogram. Luckily for me, my husband is very good about having a yearly exam, but many men are not. The scary thing is young men are the most susceptible to prostate cancer, so they MUST get a yearly exam to detect it early. So make your partner’s appointment for him and drive him there, if necessary!

Here are some other ideas on preventative measures and screenings you can take advantage of that are usually covered by health insurance:

When it comes to keeping you and your family healthy there’s much more to talk about. Join the conversation at YouTube.com/Cigna to learn about other ways you can take advantage of your health insurance plan.

__________________________ Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Cigna. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

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