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Saving Costs on Your Health Insurance -- Both Now and in the Future

by Jennifer Fairweather, Human Resources Director
comments open from June 13 until July 2

Jefferson County Government employees are no strangers to fiscal responsibility, something we owe both to ourselves and to the citizens we serve.

The following are some suggested ways to save on health care expenses:

Use urgent care before the emergency room
Both the employee’s and Jefferson County’s costs are significantly reduced through the use of urgent care versus the emergency room (ER). Unless you have a life-threatening condition, urgent care (sometimes called “after hours care”) facilities can help you through most situations including mild asthma attacks, sinus infections, sore throats, ear infections, or cold and flu symptoms. For the benefit of your most valuable commodity, time, urgent care offers significantly reduced waiting times and may help you avoid exposure to infections that may be lurking in ER’s.

When the county bids for insurance renewal each year, one of the factors that insurance companies look at is the number of emergency visits for the insured population. We all can reduce the cost of future health benefits by using urgent care whenever possible. Of course, the most cost-effective way to utilize health care is to see your primary care provider before the condition becomes “urgent” or “emergent” in the first place!

Sometimes it costs less not to use insurance
As wonderful and necessary as it is to have insurance, sometimes it saves money to pursue other options instead of whipping out your insurance card. For instance, some merchants offer $4 prescription drug programs for certain medications. Ask your health care provider if there is a generic medication for your condition that works just as well, and then see if you can find a place that offers it for $4 instead of buying a proprietary medication that may cost both you and your insurance company more.

Likewise, independent providers may offer frames and glasses at a lower rate than the provider working with the doctor on your vision plan. Ask around to find the best prices so you don’t pay more than you have to.

Once again, when insurance renewal comes along, any reduction in costs to your plans via services obtained elsewhere helps to reduce insurance rates overall.

Staying healthy keeps costs down for everyone
Missed work puts a toll on co-workers, the county, and you – just think about all the work waiting for you when you get back. Everyone gets a cold, the flu or breaks a bone now and then; but what about those conditions that we can help prevent?

You’ve heard these before, but let’s take a quick review of how to stay healthy:
1. Schedule a preventive visit with your doctor once a year – it’s 100% covered.
2. Listen to your doctor’s advice at the visit – it’s for your own good, not theirs!
3. Complete an online health assessment through your insurance plan and follow their recommendations.
4. Participate in the free disease management programs available through your insurance providers.
5. Strive for 30 minutes of exercise at least three days a week. For most people, it’s not that hard - go for a walk, ride your bike, chase the dog or the kids, or take the stairs rather than the elevator.
6. Think about what you’re putting into your body. Don’t smoke. Don’t take illegal drugs or somebody else’s prescription drugs. Try to eat at least one healthy meal a day – maybe oatmeal with a banana for breakfast, a light salad for lunch, or a lean protein with a whole grain dish for dinner. Just thinking about what’s going into your body can make a big difference in how you act.

Staying healthy, both now and in the future, reduces your insurance costs and rates, allows you to stay productive and working, and can help you to enjoy your life and your family for years to come.

Have a great summer and stay happy and healthy!

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