Asking a few questions about your health insurance and knowing your options can protect your wallet after a doctor’s visit.
1. Know your options
How much you’ll spend at the doctor depends on what type of doctor you visit. Most plans will cover a phone call with a nurse, an online doctor visit, or visits to a doctor’s office, an urgent care clinic, or a hospital emergency room. Nurse lines and online visits are usually cheapest (and often free). Emergency rooms are the most expensive.
2. Ask if the doctor is in your plan’s network
Most health plans have a network of doctors, specialists, and other providers. You’ll pay more if you get care outside the network. Ask your health plan if the doctor, facility, or hospital you want to visit is in your network. If you go to a doctor outside your network, ask the doctor about the cost. Some might be willing to negotiate lower prices with you.
3. Ask how to save money on prescriptions
Most plans have a list of drugs that they will pay for. The list also shows how much you’ll have to pay. If the drug is too expensive, ask your doctor if there’s a generic version. If you choose the brand-name drug, there may be coupons or discounts that can save you money. Ask your pharmacist where you can find coupons.
4. Ask questions if you get a bill
If the visit was covered by insurance, don’t pay more than the explanation of benefits from your health plan states you may owe. If the bill was for more than you were expecting, ask the doctor or facility for an itemized bill. Look for errors or duplicate charges. Call your health plan if you have questions. You can also ask the doctor for a discount or an interest-free payment plan.
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- Ask students whether they or their family members have requested from their physician and pharmacist if a less expensive drug is available?
- Are you aware that many states offer state pharmacy assistance programs that help pay prescription drugs based on financial need, age, or medical condition?
- Have you considered using a mail-order or legitimate online pharmacy for your prescriptions, especially if you will take a drug for a long time?
- What are your options to get the medical care you need and avoid a big bill?
If your home was damaged by the severe weather, contact your insurance company or agent to file a claim as soon as possible. These tips will help you make the process go smoother:
- Keep a list of everyone you talk to at your insurance company.
Be ready to answer questions about the damage.
- Make a list of damaged property.
Take pictures or videos. Don’t throw anything away until your insurance company tells you to do so.
- Take steps to protect your home from further damage.
Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out and prevent vandalism or theft.
- Try to be there when the insurance company comes to inspect the damage.
If you can’t stay in your home, leave a note with information on where you can be reached.
- Ask your agent about additional living expenses.
If you’re forced out of your home to make repairs, your insurance policy may pay for some of those expenses.
- Avoid fraud (with the following recommendations):
- Get written estimates.
- Get more than one bid
- Beware of contractors who solicit door to door.
- Check references and phone numbers.
- Don’t pay up front.
- Avoid contractors who offer to waive your deductible or promise a rebate for it.
- Never sign a contract with blank spaces.
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- What actions should you take to protect your property before a severe storm and floods?
- Make a checklist of actions that you should take after the storm? Share the list with other students.
- Under what circumstances is it better not to file a claim?
- If you file a claim and your insurer rejects it, what are your options? Who should you turn to for assistance?
Your landlord’s insurance will cover damage to a building or home you rent, but it will not cover your personal items, and yet only 40 percent of renters purchase renters insurance. But renters insurance is usually affordable. For people who rent, renters insurance typically includes three types of coverage—personal property coverage, loss of use, and personal liability. Keep in mind that flood damage is not covered with renters insurance. Also remember, if you are a dependent, your parents’ home-owners policy may cover your belongings even if you are not living at home.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if they are living on their own and renting an apartment. If so, do they have renters insurance?
- Ask students to call local insurance agents to get quotes for renters insurance. Do you have to pay extra for expensive items you own?
- What can you do to cover losses to your personal property due to floods or other acts of God?
- What actions can you take to reduce the cost of renters insurance? Should every renter purchase renters insurance? Why or why not?
Natural disasters create a need for unique actions. After physical safety is assured, some of the activities related to finances include:
- contacting your insurance company – request a copy of your policy, take photos and videos to document your claim.
- registering for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
- talking with your mortgage lender and credit card companies since you may not be able to make upcoming payments on time.
- contacting utility companies to suspend service if you will not be living in your home due to damage.
Beware of various scams that surface after natural disasters. These frauds can include phony repairs, deceptive contractors, requiring up-front fees, fake charities, and misrepresenting oneself as an insurance company agent or government representative to obtain personal information.
Assistance for the personal and financial chaos created by a hurricane or other natural disaster may be obtained from these organizations:
For additional information on financial actions for disasters, click here.
- Have students role play situations that might require actions such as those described in this article.
- Have students create a video with suggestions to take when encountering a natural disaster.
- How might the advice offered in this article be communicated to people who are victims of a natural disaster?
- Describe common mistakes people might make when encountering a natural disaster.
Carl Richards, author of The One Page Financial Plan, knows the financial mistakes–including the ones he has made–that people make. Based on his experience as a financial planner, he provides 10 tips to help people get what they want from life. Note: An explanation and examples to illustrate each tip are provided in this article. His tips are:
- Ask why money is important to you.
- Guess where you want to go.
- Know your starting point.
- Think of budgeting as a tool for awareness.
- Save as much as you reasonably can.
- Buy just enough insurance today.
- Remember that paying off debt can be a great investment.
- Invest like a scientist.
- Hire a real financial advisor.
- Behave for a really long time.
For more information, click here.
You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to
- Illustrate how each tip provided in this article could affect an individual’s financial plan.
- Encourage students to read the entire article to help determine what’s really important in their life.
- It’s often hard (or maybe close to impossible) to determine what you value and where you want to go in the next 20 to 30 years with perfect accuracy. Still, experts recommend that you establish a long-term financial plan. What steps can you take to make sure your plan will meet your future needs?
- Why is it important to evaluate your plan on a regular basis and make changes if necessary?
Having adequate auto insurance and determining what coverages are needed are fundamental for avoiding financial difficulties. Consumer Action (www.consumer-action.org) offers a variety of materials related to shopping for auto insurance, managing auto insurance costs, and obtaining assistance when encountering trouble when filing a claim.
These resources includes downloadable publications on the basics of auto insurance in English, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese. Also available are PowerPoint slides and lessons plans.
For additional information on auto insurance resources, click here.
- Have students develop actions that can reduce the cost of auto insurance.
- Have students create a video that demonstrates financial problems associated with not having adequate auto insurance.
- What are information sources that might be used to become better informed on auto insurance?
- How might a person reduce the cost of auto insurance?
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made an important decision about the Health Insurance Marketplace keeping quality, affordable coverage for millions of Americans. The Supreme Court’s decision confirmed that if you qualify, you can receive financial assistance, including premium tax benefit to make coverage more affordable no matter where you live.
On average, consumers enrolled in the Marketplace are receiving $3,260 per year in tax credit, or $272 each month.
About 8 in 10 consumers could find coverage for $100 or less with tax credit through the Marketplace.
If you don’t have health insurance, see if you can get health coverage for 2015. You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to life change, such as marriage, having a baby, or losing other coverage. Open enrollment for 2016 starts on November 1, 2015.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if anyone in their family is affected by the Supreme Court ruling, and if so, how?
- Ask students to prepare a summary of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
- Why is it important to inform the Marketplace about any changes to your household, income, and insurance status?
- If you have health insurance through your employer or purchased it on the individual market, does the Supreme Court ruling impact you?
Certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act will probably affect your federal income tax return when you file this year. The law requires that you and each member of your family have qualifying health insurance coverage for each month of the year, qualify for an exemption from the coverage requirement, or make an individual shared responsibility payment when filing your federal income tax return.
Most taxpayers will simply check a box on the tax return to indicate that each member of their family had qualifying health coverage for the whole year. Qualifying health insurance includes coverage for most, but not all, types of health care coverage plans. If you bought coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should receive Form 1095A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement from your Marketplace by early February.
For more information, Click Here.
- Ask students to search the Internet to gather more information about the new IRS requirements and the Affordable Care Act.
- What are provisions that might affect an individual and their families?
- What are the reporting requirements when you file your federal income tax return this year?
- How can you determine if you are eligible for an exemption?
- What should you do if you are expecting to receive 1095A and you don’t receive it by early February.