Tips to help make the most of your health plan in 2021
(BPT) - Last year was a difficult year as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our country, impacting families and communities nationwide. The health challenges of the pandemic also provided a crucial reminder about the importance of health care.
For many Americans, new health plan benefits began in January. If this is your situation, now is the perfect time to learn how to maximize this year’s health benefits, which may help improve your health — and possibly save money too.
Ann Marie O’Brien, R.N., national director of health strategies at UnitedHealthcare, provides the following tips to help you take charge of your health and get the most out of your plan in 2021:
Becoming familiar with your new health plan — especially at the start of a new year — is one way to help you be proactive when it comes to your health. For more health and wellness information, visit UHC.com.
Every year, millions of American workers enroll in employee benefits through their workplaces during a period known as annual enrollment. It’s usually a short window of time, but employees make crucial financial decisions for their families for the coming year. In addition to medical insurance, consider these voluntary benefits that can help bridge the gap between what health insurance covers and what you’re financially responsible for.
Help Safeguard Your Family’s Finances
(Family Features) Every year, millions of American workers enroll in employee benefits through their workplaces during a period known as annual enrollment. It's usually a short window of time, but employees make crucial financial decisions for their families for the coming year.
In addition to medical insurance, many employers offer a range of voluntary benefits - those you select and pay for yourself, often by having the cost deducted directly from your paycheck. These voluntary benefits can help bridge the gap between what health insurance covers and what you're financially responsible for, especially as more employees opt for high-deductible health insurance plans.
In fact, according to a poll of 1,512 full-time U.S. workers conducted by employee benefits company Unum, 49% of working adults plan on enrolling in a high-deductible health plan for the coming benefit year, with Millennials (58%) and Gen Z'ers (54%) at even higher rates.
"While high-deductible health plans offer lower monthly payments, that can mean more financial responsibility for policyholders when they need to use the benefit," said personal finance expert Laura Adams. "Combining a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account can offset out-of-pocket costs, but it's also a good idea to consider voluntary benefits like disability, accident and hospital insurance to further financially protect your family."
If an accident, illness or injury prevents you from working, disability insurance replaces a portion of your income. While it may seem unlikely to many they would ever experience a disability, it's more common than some realize. Based on 2019 information from the Social Security Administration, more than 1 in 4 of today's 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67.
Accident and hospital insurance can pay a lump sum directly to you to offset out-of-pocket costs associated with medical care often not covered by health insurance.
Voluntary benefits, policies and details vary, so it's essential to review your options and discuss with your family before your benefits enrollment begins.
"Investing a little additional time on the front end can help reduce your family's financial risk down the road," Adams said.
For more information about employee benefits, visit Unum.com/benefits.
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(BPT) - As our nation seeks solutions to help improve the health care system, there is at least one goal we can all agree on: the importance of making health care quality and cost information more accessible to all Americans.
This is an important effort that has the potential to help improve health outcomes and make care more affordable — laudable goals considering the nation’s health care system ranks among the least efficient in the world, according to a recent Bloomberg analysis.
More widespread use of health quality and cost resources may be part of the solution. Providing health care prices to consumers, health care professionals and other stakeholders could reduce U.S. health care spending by more than $100 billion during the next decade, according to a 2014 report by the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center.
That is in part because there are significant price variations for health care services and procedures at hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide, yet a study by Families U.S.A. concluded that higher-priced care providers do not necessarily deliver higher-quality care or better health outcomes.
Fortunately, there are many new online and mobile resources that help enable people to access health care quality and cost information, helping them to comparison shop for health care as they would with other consumer products and services. And people are starting to take action: nearly one third of Americans have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for health care, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.
These resources are far more accurate and useful than those of past generations, and in some cases provide people with estimates based on actual contracted rates with physicians and hospitals, including likely out-of-pocket costs based on their current health plan benefits. Some resources also include quality information about specific physicians, as determined by independent standards.
There are many resources people can consider when shopping for health care. In addition to online and mobile resources, people can call their health plan to discuss quality and cost transparency information, as well as talk with their health care professional about alternative treatment settings, including urgent care and telehealth options. Public websites, such as www.uhc.com/transparency and www.guroo.com, also can help enable access to market-average prices for hundreds of medical services in cities nationwide.
These resources can help people save money and select health care professionals based on objective information. A UnitedHealthcare analysis showed that people who use online or mobile transparency resources are more likely to select health care providers rated on quality and cost-efficiency across all specialties, including for primary care (7 percent more likely) and orthopedics (9 percent more likely). In addition, the analysis found that people who use the transparency resources before receiving health care services pay 36 percent less than non-users.
As people take greater responsibility for their health care decisions and the cost of medical treatments, transparency resources are becoming important tools to help consumers access quality care and avoid surprise medical bills.
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