5 Ways your health plan can help you save money

Many health insurance companies offer cost-saving programs and benefits to members who need it most. Learn more about how your health plan can help you save money.

It’s no secret that healthcare is expensive. In 2020, the average American family paid more than $1,770 a month for health insurance. The price tag hits hardest for those who tend to need medical care the most. At the top of the list: low-income people and those in racial and ethnic minority groups.

Such groups often face healthcare challenges due to social determinants of health (SDOH). These are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that directly impact well-being. They include:

  • Access to healthcare services.
  • Neighborhood safety.
  • Income level.
  • Housing.
  • Access to education.
  • Food options and availability.
  • Environment and air quality.
  • Access to transportation.

When SDOHs are low-quality, there’s a higher chance of getting sick. For example, families who live in areas with more air pollution are more likely to have asthma. If they live in a food desert — an area with limited access to affordable and nutritious food — it’s harder to buy the healthy ingredients that help prevent disease.

SDOHs also impact how people use the healthcare system, Susan Beaton says. Beaton is the vice president of Health Plan Strategy at Wellframe, a digital health management platform. “If you don’t have transportation, you can’t get to your doctor’s appointment,” says Beaton. “If you don’t live in stable housing, your medications might not get delivered on a regular basis.”

The good news? More health plans are offering benefits and programs to help members facing poor SDOHs. Using them can help you save money and stay healthy. And it may lower your medical costs down the road. Here are 5 services you should know about.

To be sure you’re getting the best possible health care, ask your health insurance representative if you have access to Wellframe.

Regular financial allowances

Some plans offer regular allowances to help members reduce barriers to wellness caused by SDOHs. The allowance may be monthly, quarterly, or yearly. It often comes in a prepaid debit card. How you can use it depends on your plan. Some common approved uses:

  • Healthy foods.
    Examples: fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood, whole grains, and pantry staples.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) health and wellness items.
    Examples: thermometers, pain relievers, cold and flu remedies, first-aid supplies, and blood pressure monitors.
  • Utility bills.
    Examples: electricity, gas, and sewer.

Transportation assistance

Have a doctor’s appointment but no way to get there? Maybe you don’t have a car, and there’s no public transportation in your area. Or perhaps you have a disability that makes traveling a challenge. Your health plan might offer rides to and from certain locations, such as your doctor’s office or pharmacy. Or they can help you find local transportation resources such as senior vans.

Reliable phone and internet connections

Being able to call and email your doctor or health plan is key to staying well. It’s how you make appointments, ask questions, learn about your coverage, and more. But it’s tough to do if you don’t have a phone or internet service you can count on.

That’s why some health plans offer certain members a smartphone. With it, they get data, minutes, and messaging services. They can use it to connect with their healthcare providers and for services such as virtual doctor appointments.

Meal and prescription home delivery

Do you regularly take medications or use medical supplies? If so, having them sent to your home can save you several trips to the pharmacy. That makes it easier to stick to your treatment plan. And sometimes buying more costs less in the long run.

Fortunately, many health plans let members order a 3-month supply of prescription medications for home delivery. And if you have an allowance for OTC items, you might be able to use it for home delivery of medical supplies. Things such as blood pressure monitors, walking canes, and TENS units might qualify.

Here’s one more home delivery service to know about. Some health plans will deliver meals to members for a few weeks after a stay at a hospital or skilled nursing facility. That way you don’t have to worry about food shopping and prep. You can focus on healing instead.

Fitness support

Staying active is a great way to lower your risk for all kinds of health problems. But gym memberships can be pricey. And not everyone lives in an area that’s good for exercising outdoors.

Ask your plan if it offers discounts or allowances for fitness centers. Some even include a gym membership as a covered benefit. Many Medicare Advantage plans offer SilverSneakers® to members at no extra cost. With this fitness program, you can exercise at certain locations. Or you can use its online videos for yoga, strength training, and more.

How to find out if you’re eligible

Benefits can vary a lot among health plans. And they can change from year to year. So it’s worth taking some time to see what’s available. You can:

  • Check your health plan’s website. Look for your Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). It’s a snapshot of your plan’s costs, benefits, and covered services.
  • Call your health plan customer service number. It’s often on your member ID card.
  • If you have a care manager, call that person directly.
  • Use a digital health management app such as Wellframe. Many plans offer these smartphone apps at no extra cost. You can use the app to connect with your care advocate. They can help you understand your benefits. And they can connect you with the right people or resources.

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