Piggy BankFor some time now it seems that the phrase “affordable health insurance” is an oxymoron. If you have found good health insurance that your budget can manage, make sure you know your plan well. Knowing what your plan covers, what your deductible amounts are and the timing of service, billing and expected payment date are all important facts for you to know.

Recently a family member had an emergency room visit. Our policy fully covers legitimate emergencies, which this was. However, I received a bill from the provider because our insurer’s first payment was only 50%. I called the provider and they said they would re-submit the claim. I then called our insurer and they said they had made a mistake and it would be covered in full. If I had simply paid the bill, I very much doubt anyone else would have cared to point out my mistake. It seems to be common practice for insurers to pay less than what they owe with a first payment. If I think it should be covered, I always question it. Many insurers are making it easier for you to research your claims by archiving your claim history in their data base that you are able to access. Health care providers on the other hand will generally send you a bill with minimal detail. Ask for the itemized bill if you question what is being charged.

Another tip I have learned is to always ask for a discount when I’m paying my health care provider. Once I’m sure my insurance has paid its part I generally call the provider and pay my balance. Before I make my payment I ask if they offer a discount if I pay in full. Invariably the answer is yes. The percentage of discount varies depending on the amount owed. Discounts can range from 5% to 20%, higher discounts for larger payments. If I cannot afford to pay the entire bill, I ask to pay in monthly installments. Once again the provider is happy to take my installment payments with no finance charge.

These are practices I’ve learned to follow on my own through trial and error. With a quick search around the web you are bound to find many more tips to help you save a little here and there on your cost of health care. Here is a link to an article of tips published by Mint.com in their personal finance blog MintLife.