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Becoming a Better Patient: Tips to save money on healthcare

From HMO to HSA, premiums, deductibles, and now the new beast, The Affordable Care Act. Picking a health insurance plan just got more complicated.

\"It's not just the price of the premium, it's what does the plan look like, what are the deductibles, does it have coinsurance, how does it cover my prescriptions, and then what kind of network does it give me?\"

Health insurance expert Dawn Bernatz with Burkwald & Associates, says it starts with a list of questions, and for every family, the answers are different. But, the first place you can make a costly mistake is blindly choosing the cheapest premium without thinking about the deductible.

\"You can't ever predict, heaven forbid, that you slip going out the front door, dislocate everything and suddenly you have big deductible expenses,\" she adds.

Since you really don't know what can happen in the next year, Bernatz suggests also keying in other issues. like network coverage, coinsurance, and co-pays all of those things could drastically change your bottom-line. Once you've made your choice, it's time to put your plan to work.

Here's where it gets tricky. The Affordable Care Act helped make positive changes for consumers,like expanded benefits for women, and free preventive care. But how you ask for those services could determine the cost. Bernatz recalls taking her teenage son for a paid sports physical, after asking a few questions she realized she could have just gotten him a regular physical for free under the new laws.

She says it's all about how you ask. \"They weren't trying to be slippery with me, they're trained to do what they're told. You want a sports physical, we code a sports physical this way, you want

preventive care, you code it this way,” Bernatz said

Also, Doctor doesn't always know best when it comes to tests, like cat scans, MRI's, or even simple injections. Where you get those procedures could mean a price swing from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

\"An MRI at an outpatient clinic, versus an MRI at a hospital is a drastically different price typically.\"

Bernatz also suggests using freestanding clinics that specialize in specifically what you are looking for.

Plus, don't take everything at face value. Bills, doctor's, prescriptions, even where you receive treatment can all be questioned and negotiated.

\"Decisions can be reversed, you can get things covered that weren't covered before if you're willing to go through those steps and you can demonstrate, here's why this should have been covered.\"

Bernatz says the only true advocate you have when it comes to your health is yourself.

\"They're not trained to be our advocates, we have to be our advocates, and that's a big shift, that's a big mind shift for people to think about that.\"

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