“As an osteopathic physician, I cannot stress to my patients enough how important prevention is to their health. Preventive visits allow me to screen for conditions like high cholesterol or diabetes, which if left untreated can have serious consequences. When a recent survey by the AOA showed that three in 10 patients were skipping primary care visits because they were trying to save money, the AOA developed this ‘Savvy Patient Checklist’ to encourage patients to make their health a priority, even when on a tight budget.”
Matthew B. Ajluni, DO
Osteopathic Family Physician
Swedish Covenant Hospital
What to ask your physician
Is there a generic alternative available for the medication prescribed? According to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, generic versions of brand medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can result in savings of 30-80%.
Are there any free samples available of the medication your physician is prescribing to you? Often pharmaceutical representatives provide physicians with samples of products.
Are there rebates or coupons for the prescribed medication? Occasionally a pharmaceutical company will have rebates or coupons available for certain medication that your physician might have in the office.
Are there lifestyle changes I can make to stay healthy? Changes such as adopting a healthy diet and exercising can help with conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Is this test really necessary at this time or can I wait? Don’t be afraid to have a frank discussion with your doctor about your budget. At times, physicians may order tests to be very thorough, but if a patient expresses their wish to be conservative this could influence decision making on ordering certain tests.
What to ask your insurance company
Is there a pharmacy benefit and/or prescription home delivery service? Many plans offer competitive prices on medications through their pharmacy benefits and are set up for mail order service, potentially saving you money and time. Be sure to review your plan’s pharmacy benefits and list of covered medications. In some cases you may need to ask your physician to prescribe a different drug that does the same thing or a generic alternative to enjoy the full benefit.
Are there tools for calculating copayments and other out-of-pocket expenses? A number of insurers offer cost calculators and cost estimates for physician and other medical services on their websites to help you better budget for medical expenses.
Are there discounts for wellness programs, such as gym memberships or at-home weight-loss programs? Many insurers list these programs on their websites or you may call the customer service number and ask about them.
Are preventive services covered as required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Passed in 2010, one of the measures in this federal legislation requires private insurers to cover a variety of preventive services, including routine immunizations and screenings for conditions such as cancer and high cholesterol, as well as preventive services for women and children, without you having to make a copayment or requiring you to meet your deductible.
What to ask your employer
What health benefits are offered? Asking the following questions can help make sure you enroll in a plan that is the most cost-effective for your situation:
How do the HMO and PPO plans differ and are there any additional options for coverage I may be unaware of?
Are there coverage options for spouses and other family members?
What is the premium for each plan offered? (A premium is the actual amount of money charged by the insurer for active coverage.)
Where can I find more information about these plans, such as a list of the services covered; a breakdown of how much of the cost for certain procedures the insurer will cover; and listings of the plans’ physician providers?
Is there a flexible spending account (FSA) benefit? FSAs allow employees to exempt a portion of their earnings from payroll taxes to pay for certain expenses, including health care related expenditures. This money can be used for such items as copayments for physician visits; bandages, rubbing alcohol and other first aid supplies; and over-the-counter medications (with prescription from a physician).
What employer-sponsored wellness programs are available? Many employers partner with local health care organizations or athletic clubs to offer a range of services, such as gym memberships, smoking cessation courses and fitness classes at discounted or employer-subsidized rates.
What you can do
Source: American Osteopathic Association