Beyond health insurance: how to stay well

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Beyond health insurance: how to stay well

In this post we help

you Reduce the risk of spending too much money or time on your health care

Staying healthy during the colder months can be a challenge, as our instincts tell us to hibernate under a pile of sweaters and sip hot chocolate while our immune systems fight off cold and flu attacks. And as the season gets busier, we often devote less and less time to keeping track of our own health. High deductibles on health insurance can also get in the way of us seeking out medical care and encourage us to try and ride out our weeks-long stints with the sniffles, possibly spending more money on over-the-counter cold medicine than we would have at the doctor.

If your high deductible keeps you from regularly visiting your physician, or if getting sick and making an appointment with your primary care physician seems like a hassle to you, these tips will show you how to stay well without interrupting your routine.

Go to an Urgent Care Clinic

Getting sick is already a nuisance, and paying a ton of money out of pocket to cover a high deductible at a physician’s office is just adding insult to injury. In fact, a recent BenefitsPro article states that 29% of insured adults with high deductible plans said they did not go to the doctor when sick or injured because of costs. However, you can have common illnesses treated at an urgent care clinic, which charges a much lower fee compared to what you would pay to go to the emergency room. Blue Cross Blue Shield recommends going to an urgent care clinic if you have any of these injuries or symptoms:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Sore throat
  • Sprains
  • Animal bites
  • Flu symptoms
  • Minor burns
  • Broken bones
  • Minor injuries

Certain drugstores also have clinics to treat minor illnesses, which can be cheaper than seeing a primary care doctor, and would most certainly be cheaper than a trip to the emergency room. CVS’s Minute Clinic website states that if you are uninsured or would prefer to pay out-of-pocket instead of your insurance copay, the cost of treatment for minor illnesses, such as an ear infection or respiratory infection, ranges from $79-$99.

Use telemedicine programs

Telemedicine can also connect you to quality care without having to visit a general care physician. Different programs offer phone calls with physicians, secure video messaging systems and live video chats. If you’re looking for a way to seek medical care without taking hours out of your day to wait at the doctor’s office, one of these programs might be your best option. Here is a list of popular telemedicine services.

(Remember, some of these apps and services require you to give personal medical information to a third party. Only share your information with parties you trust.)

Call A Dr Plus: With this program, users never pay copays or deductibles. It’s subscription-based, so a monthly fee of $19.95 gets you unlimited 24/7 doctor access by phone, video or through the mobile app for your entire family. The doctors can write prescriptions, and their website states that 91% of calls are resolved the first time, with no need for follow up. You also receive a WellCard discount card, which can help save on prescriptions. If you or your family are relatively healthy and crunched for time, this could help keep you all well on a budget.

Doctor on Demand: This app offers live video visits with doctors. It is free to download and does not require a subscription, but it does cost $40 per doctor visit. These doctors can write prescriptions as well, so it’s basically the same thing as going to a general care physician. Doctor on Demand says its business is perfect for patients experiencing these illnesses or with these needs:

  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • Prescription refills
  • UTIs
  • Pediatric fever or other questions/concerns
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • STDs
  • Rashes/bug bites/other skin problems
  • Sports injuries
  • Smoking cessation
  • Heartburn
  • Back pain

Use your smartphone

Like telemedicine, these apps help you monitor your health and well-being and seek medical care without waiting in a doctor’s office. Here is a list of popular remote medicine apps:

iTriage: While this app doesn’t let you chat with doctors directly, it prompts you to enter your symptoms and provides information about doctors and facilities near you that can provide treatment. After listing your symptoms, the app also displays common causes. For example, if you’re sneezing and think you have sinusitis, you can read overviews and descriptions of the infection, see images and videos and read more related health articles. You can also use the app to store all of your health insurance and medication information, and you can book an appointment through it. If you want to be more directly involved in your health care, this might be the app for you.

Here are more helpful smartphone apps we recommend

HealthTap: This app is a comprehensive way to seek medical care through your mobile device. HealthTap lets you video chat, message or call doctors 24/7. Aside from speaking with doctors for immediate health needs and getting prescriptions delivered to your home, this app also contains an arsenal of useful medical information. One feature shows questions other users have asked as well as any answers a doctor has already provided. Another useful feature is a series of wellness checklists for different health goals. The app also develops a custom news feed for you based on your health graph, so all of the news and tips are applicable to your health care needs. To speak with doctors through HealthTap Concierge, it will cost $99/month.

ZocDoc: While you can’t use it to meet with doctors remotely, this app’s simplicity makes it valuable to consumers. To schedule an appointment with a doctor in your area, all you have to do is enter your insurance information and zip code, look through the list of available doctors and appointment times, and book your appointment right from the app.

CakeHealth: This app tracks all of your health care spending from one place, so you don’t have to worry about synthesizing your insurance information, hospital bills and medical records yourself. After you fill out your insurance information on the app, CakeHealth imports important billing information, so you don’t have to worry about misplacing bills. It also tracks all of your claims and spending, which can help you catch medical overbilling.

Taking the healthcare app trend a step further, a New York Times article on consumer participation in healthcare describes app and attachment devices that turn your smartphone into an otoscope (to examine the inner ear) and a heart monitor. With these devices, consumers can track themselves, communicate their findings to their doctors remotely and go from there. If you have a loved one prone to ear infections or need to regularly monitor your heart, these app and attachment packages could make your life much more convenient.

And before you get sick, stay on top of your health with a wearable health device

Another option for staying well could help prevent you from getting sick in the first place. Wearable fitness trackers, like the Jawbone Up24, FitBit or the Nike+ FuelBand SE keep track of your steps per day, your calories burned during exercise and even your sleep patterns. Analyzing this data will show you which areas you could improve in order to live a more healthy lifestyle, and some services make things more fun by including challenges and goals. Whether you’re an avid runner or want to track how many steps you take in a day, there’s a wearable tracker that can keep you in the know. PC Mag reviewed the best wearable fitness activity trackers, if you want to learn more about which tracker would best suit you.

These trackers have become a major trend in the past few years, especially as companies begin to incorporate them into wellness plans. FitBit says that one of the fastest growing parts of its business is sales to employers. Wearable trackers’ value as preventative healthcare is apparent and growing.

With high deductible plans becoming more popular, the need for alternative ways to stay well will grow. While you should not stay away from your primary care physician if you seriously need to go to the doctor, these strategies could help you stay well without blowing all of your health care budget.

Photo: ntr23