Tips on Minimizing Your Health & Dental Expenses

With health care costs continuing to increase, here are some tips that may help minimize your expenses. For more information, please contact the County of San Bernardino – Human Resources EBSD at 1.909.387.5787 or via email at ebsd@hr.sbcounty.gov.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Maintaining your own health can help minimize your health care costs. The Employee Benefits and Services Division offers a great wellness program – My Health Matters! – that encourages and assists employees in achieving healthy lifestyles. The healthier you are, the less likely you are to need health care, which means you spend less on copayments, deductibles, etc. Schedule an annual physical, eat right and get plenty of exercise.

Use a provider that is part of the managed care network

If you are enrolled in the Blue Shield PPO or Cigna Dental PPO Plans, use in-network providers. The in-network benefits are covered with lower out-of-pocket costs for you. Visit Blue Shield's ( https://www.blueshieldca.com/) or Cigna Dental's ( http://www.cigna.com/) web site for the provider's directory.

Look for ways to save on prescription drug costs

With prescription drug costs increasing as rapidly as they have been, you may be able to reduce your costs based on how you use your prescription drug plan. For example, try to use generic drugs whenever possible - not only are the overall costs for generic drugs lower than for brand name drugs, but the prescription drug plans offered by the County of San Bernardino provide a higher level of coverage for generics than for brands. The mandatory mail order program for long-term maintenance medications also helps reduce your costs.

Use the emergency room only for emergencies or life-threatening situations

If you are unsure about the severity of your symptoms, call your medical clinic or doctor. Use the urgent care facilities that are part of your plan for non-emergencies or when medical care is needed outside of your doctor's regular office hours. Many facilities have a doctor on call 24-hours a day who can answer questions or recommend the appropriate level of care.

Think in-network

Always make sure that your current Primary Care Physician (PCP) and dentist are still “in-network” in your plan.

Treat health care as you would any consumer good

Educate yourself about health care services and their costs and learn how to use your health plan to obtain the best value.

Review your health care bills

You might be able to identify and prevent unnecessary health care costs. Here's what to look for to determine if a bill is correct:
  • Does the date of service on the bill match the date you went to the doctor or the hospital?
  • Did you receive all the services or procedures listed on the bill?
  • Are you charged for X-rays or lab work in excess of what you received?
  • Is your share of the cost correct?

Call your provider to report any errors you find on your bills or Explanation of Benefits (EOB) forms.

Choose the level of coverage that's right for you and your family

As you review the comparison charts and plan highlights provided to you, keep these important questions in mind:
  • What are my current benefits needs?
  • Are these needs different than they were in the past?
  • Do I expect to have new or different needs for the coming year?
  • How do these needs affect my current benefits elections and the choices I need to make?

Also, because Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are a Medical Plan option available to you, below are some guidelines to follow when choosing a Primary Care Physician (PCP).

Choose your Primary Care Physician carefully

Be sure to check the provider's background:

  • Where did he/she go to school?
  • What kind of degree does he/she have?
  • What kind of specialized training, if any, does he/she have?
  • What certifications does he/she have? Ask for proof.
  • What licenses does he/she have? Ask for proof.
  • What relevant experience does he/she have?
  • Ask for proof of liability or malpractice insurance.
  • Ask for a minimum of three references and call each one.
  • For which hospital does he/she have admitting rights?
  • Call the Better Business Bureau and inquire about any possible complaints.


Interview the physician in person and see if you are comfortable with him/her:

  • Do you like his/her bedside manner?
  • Do you like the atmosphere in the office?
  • Be sure he/she takes the time to learn about your history and concerns.
  • Be sure he/she asks about your background, experiences, goals, and expectations.
  • Is office staff helpful and friendly?
  • Does he/she explain the course of action planned?
  • Is he/she willing to refer you to a specialist if necessary?


Remember:

  • Ask questions!
  • Do your homework!
  • Take notes!
  • You are in charge of your health care!

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