Six tips to get the most out of your health coverage

You might be unable to avoid out-of-pocket medical expenses, but there are still ways to spend less and get the care you need.

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There can be many perks that come with a new job, but one tried and true perk that many employers offer — and is extremely valuable — is health insurance.

When you receive your healthcare benefits package, make sure you understand everything your company offers and what you will have to pay for out-of-pocket. Out-of-pocket healthcare expenses typically include deductibles, medication, and anything else that will not be reimbursed by the insurance company.

Here are six tips to get the most out of your health coverage, without spending too much of your own money.

1. If it’s available, get generic medicine

The FDA requires generic medications have the same high quality, strength, purity and stability as brand-name medication. On average, the price of a generic medicine is 80 to 85% lower than the brand name product.

2. Use in-network doctors

In-network doctors are contracted with your insurance company to accept certain negotiated or discounted rates. Going out-of-network could mean higher coinsurance rates and deductibles, sometimes doubling the cost.

Go directly to your insurance company’s website and search for your healthcare provider to see if they are in-network. If not, you may want to consider switching.

3. Take advantage of HSA and FSA accounts

A Health Savings Account (HSA) and a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) are resources that help you set aside money for healthcare costs, such as deductibles or medication. Both accounts allow you to deposit pre-tax money into either account and use the account to pay for prescriptions, copays, and more. Your employer may even match your contribution to these accounts, netting you more dedicated dough for potential medical expenses.

4. Talk to medical providers about interest-free payment plans

If you have a huge medical bill to pay down, talk to your doctor’s office about setting up an interest-free payment plan. If they offer it, these plans allow you to pay for healthcare bills over time without interest or penalties. Setting up a flexible payment agreement will also help you avoid missing payments, which will prevent the bill from being referred to a collections agency and affecting your credit score.

5. Know when to use urgent care vs. emergency room visits

If you have a true medical emergency, going to the ER could save your life. But while they can help care for any medical situation, it comes at a steep price. Going to an urgent care center, if your situation isn’t life threatening, could cost you just a third of the amount of a trip to the ER.

6. Take advantage of free preventive benefits

Many companies offer perks that double as preventive care methods. On-site gyms, healthy lunch options, and free wellness services are all examples of how your job might encourage you to stay mindful of your health.

Taking advantage of these options and taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle may also save you money on health insurance premiums during open enrollment.