BATON ROUGE – It’s a new year, and for many, this means a new start on health insurance. If you switched to a new plan, it most likely began on Jan. 1, 2019. If you are on the same plan you had last year, any changes to your coverage and benefits typically take effect with the New Year. And, if your health plan has a deductible, it resets at the beginning of each year.
With that in mind, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is offering some tips to get the most out of your healthcare coverage and keep your out-of-pocket costs as low as possible.
Stay In Your Network
Make sure you are getting care from doctors, clinics, labs and other facilities that are in the network for your health plan. You will pay less out of pocket for care when you see in-network healthcare providers.
Remember, not all health plans, even those from the same insurer, use the same provider network. Check before you make an appointment to make sure you’re staying in network. When in doubt, call Customer Service for your plan to find out if a healthcare provider is in your plan’s network. For Blue Cross customers, this is the number on your member ID card.
Blue Cross customers can also check the Blue Cross network directory online at www.bcbsla.com/FindCare, or use the BCBSLA mobile app to get up-to-date information on providers in network for your plan.
Have a Primary Care Provider
It’s important to find and regularly see a primary care provider to treat most of your health needs when you are sick or injured. A primary care provider is typically an internal medicine, family medicine, general practice or geriatric medicine provider for adults or a pediatrics provider for children.
A primary care provider can help you stay on top of your health history over time, and can help coordinate your care to see specialists, have screenings or get tests as your health changes through the years. And, getting treated in a primary care provider’s office usually costs less than ER, urgent care or specialty care.
Choose the Right Care
Where you go and who you see for treatment is a big part of getting quality care while saving money. It’s good to see a primary care provider for most of your health needs, but there will be times when you need care outside of office hours or if you cannot get an appointment.
At any time, if you are having a health emergency, you should go to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Urgent care centers and retail clinics, such as those inside pharmacies, are also an option to get treatment for acute health needs that aren’t serious emergencies.
Many health plans are offering telehealth services to give customers more access to care after hours or when they do not want to leave home to get treated for minor health conditions. Telehealth visits usually cost less than the ER or urgent care, and this is an effective way to treat routine health needs like cough and cold, flu symptoms, bladder infections, pink eye or stomach bugs.
Blue Cross’ telehealth service for 24/7 online doctor visits is BlueCare, and customers can have an appointment using a computer, smartphone, tablet or any internet-connected device with a camera. Go to www.BlueCareLA.com or get the BlueCare (one word) mobile app for Android and Apple devices to sign up and have online doctor visits if you need them.
Compare Prices and Save
If you need to have a procedure, like an MRI, colonoscopy or mammogram, see if your insurance provider has a tool that can help you compare prices. Using a shopping tool will show that there is often a wide range in costs for the same medical service – for instance, costs for MRIs and surgical procedures can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Blue Cross members can use SmartShopperTM, which lets them see cost ranges for procedures in hundreds of categories. Powered by information from Blue Cross’ claims data, SmartShopper shows the price differences for various procedures, based on facility and ZIP code.
SmartShopper is online at the Blue Cross website, www.bcbsla.com/SmartShopper, or by going directly to www.bcbsla.vitalssmartshopper.com. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana customers who are ages 18 or older, with the exception of those covered through the Federal Employee Program, can access Smart Shopper. The tool is also available to Blue Cross network providers.
Customers will create an online account on their first visit to the site, which they will log in with each time they use SmartShopper. After logging into the site, with the click of a mouse, customers can search for different medical procedures and their costs.
SmartShopper is operated through a partnership with Vitals, an independent company that provides transparency around cost and access information−paired with member engagement, actionable data and predictive analytics−to empower people to make more informed and effective health care decisions.
For year-round tips on saving money with your healthcare costs, visit bcbsla.com/save-money. If you started a new health plan for 2019, check out www.bcbsla.com/NewtoBlue to learn more about what’s covered and what’s available on your health plan.
Blue Cross Healthcare Economist Mike Bertaut’s blog, Straight Talk, shares information on healthcare reform, costs and quality. The blog is updated typically weekly and includes articles, video and podcasts. Visit Straight Talk to see news and updates.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. We invest both time and money in the communities we serve, supporting the health and wellbeing of Louisianians through more than 200 charitable organizations.
With our subsidiaries, HMO Louisiana and Southern National Life, we provide group and individual health insurance plans, life and disability insurance, group voluntary products and administrative services to one out of four Louisiana residents. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana also provides Medicare supplement and Medicare Advantage plans and is a partner in offering the Healthy Blue Medicaid Managed care plan. Louisiana is the only state where we operate, with offices in every major region to serve our customers.
Founded in New Orleans in 1934, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is a tax-paying non-profit health insurer. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
To learn more, visit our website at www.bcbsla.com.