Being a patient can often try one’s patience. But remember that knowledge is power…being an informed patient can make dealing with doctor appointments, medical procedures and health insurance easier to handle. These tips can help you :
- Start reading. Read your benefits booklet to understand what services are covered and your financial responsibility.
- Take advantage of your benefits. Once you understand what your insurance plan covers (such as a yearly physical exam, mail order prescriptions, etc), take advantage of these benefits.
- Make sure your doctor’s part of the “in” crowd. Generally, in-network care will be much less expensive for you than out-of-network care would be. Before scheduling an appointment, call both the provider’s office and the insurance company to make sure that the specific doctor(s) you need to see are in-network with your insurance plan.
- Always carry your insurance card with you. You don’t know when an accident might happen–that’s why they’re called accidents. Make sure your insurance card is always in your wallet. If you need to get rushed to the hospital unexpectedly, you or someone accompanying you will have your insurance information readily available.
- Take notes. When you’re at a doctor’s appointment, you might feel overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to write things down while you’re there–later on, you may not remember all the details your doctor gave you regarding your treatment plan.
- Ask questions. If you don’t understand what the doctor’s talking about, are unclear about your diagnosis, or have questions about your treatment, ask for clarification. Your doctor is there to help you, so don’t be shy about speaking up.
- Look over your EOBs. After a doctor appointment or hospital stay, your insurance company will mail you an explanation of benefits (EOB) that will tell you what the insurance company thinks you had done and how much of the cost they’ll pick up. Read these carefully and make sure they match up with your doctor bills—if they don’t match, there could be an error. If you think you’ve found an error, notify your insurance company right away.
- Understand your insurance benefits appeals process. Did your insurance company not cover something that you thought was covered? Read your benefits information to find out how to appeal.
- Know when to ask for help. You don’t have to handle healthcare and insurance-related issues alone. Find out if your employer includes an advocacy service as part of your benefits package. If so, reach out to them for assistance with issues such as negotiating a large medical bill, helping you find in-network providers, and more.
Curious about other ways a health advocate can help you? Email me your question: email@example.com. Your question may be the subject of an upcoming “Ask a Health Advocate” column!