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Health Savings Account: Beyond Banking

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) allow you to save for and pay for your share of qualified medical expenses. Your health plan deductible expenses (the portion of healthcare services for which you pay — such as doctor’s visits, prescriptions, lab tests, and hospital visits) all qualify for payment from your HSA. So do many other expenses, including vision and dental expenses, chiropractors and acupuncturists, and more.

What is healthcare consumerism?

Healthcare consumerism is the concept that by bringing more financial accountability to healthcare choices, consumers (you and your family) will be more engaged in how they spend their money. By being more engaged, you’re more likely to evaluate treatment options, and the cost and quality of those options, before deciding what healthcare services to use. 

Historically, you may only have known how much your copays were — a doctor’s visit was $20 or a prescription was $10. You had no visibility into the true cost of care, and no financial “skin in the game” to find the best quality care and the best price. With the higher deductible of HSA-qualified health plans, and having your own funds in an HSA, you’ll now have more incentive to get actively involved in the purchase of your healthcare — hence, healthcare consumerism.

Your HSA allows you to save for your share of medical costs, tax-free. As you save money in your HSA, you’ll likely want to find ways to make it go further. Become a better healthcare consumer by asking questions, looking around for better prices, and finding out about treatment options.

Tips for becoming a more effective healthcare consumer

Evaluate your prescription drug expenses 

  • Consult with your pharmacy to determine the full cost, with your discount, of your medications.
  • Is a prescription necessary or can you consider an over-the-counter drug alternative? 
  • If you need to take a prescription, remember to ask for a generic alternative. Providers often receive incentives for the number of prescriptions that are filled for certain drugs. Often the alternative can treat the condition with just as much success as a brand-name option and, more often than not, it can save you money. 
  • There are different costs for the same medication from pharmacy to pharmacy. Remember to give them your health plan ID card so they can incorporate the additional discount often provided by the plan.

Research and shop around for your healthcare, including medications 

  • Don’t just accept the initial recommendation from your doctor. Ask questions about the medical necessity and cost for procedures and services. 
  • Use online resources to research an injury, illness, or condition and educate yourself in addition to considering your provider’s recommendation. 
  • Tell your provider you have a high-deductible health plan. Some providers will maximize health insurance benefits. Knowing that you’re paying out of pocket may help you negotiate lower charges or cause the provider to re-think the necessity of testing or procedures.

Only visit the ER in actual emergency situations 

  • Remember that your provider’s office and urgent care are appropriate options for conditions that aren’t life-threatening — and they can be a lot more cost-effective.

Resources for building your healthcare consumer literacy

Need help understanding your options for treatment of different conditions and the costs involved? These websites are a good place to start. You can also check with your health insurance provider for more resources and information on the providers in your network.

  • HealthGrades gives quality and safety ratings for healthcare providers in your area.
  • WebMD’s Drugs & Medications A–Z offers user reviews of a variety of medications, searchable by drug name or medical condition.
  • From good nutrition to essential exams, WebMD is a comprehensive source for basic healthcare information.
  • MedicinePlus is a government-sponsored link with information and tools to help you make informed choices.
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