Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking or live healthier, you’ll probably need some support.You may find it comes from a surprising place: your health insurance.
Health insurance will pay for a broad range of free preventive care and screenings. Most plans also come with perks that don’t directly involve medical care, including help with weight loss and tobacco cessation. By taking advantage of these benefits, you can live a healthier life while maximizing the value of your health insurance.
There are many different perks and benefits available, and you don’t need to use them all to get healthier, says Wendy King, director of health and performance at HUB International, one of the largest insurance brokers in America. “It’s a matter of using the right benefits for your life right now. It’s all about saving time, saving money, and improving your quality of life,” she says.
When it comes to health care, she says, that means reducing your health risks and staying vital as long as possible. By utilizing some of these lesser-known perks, you may be able to do just that.
Free preventive care
Preventive care has been shown to improve people’s health and lower their costs. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), certain preventive services must be covered by all health insurance, whether you get it from an employer or an online marketplace. “Preventive care on the recommended schedule will help to save you money in the long run, and help you to really modify your risk factors over time,” King says.
These services include recommended vaccines for adults and children, and several screenings, such as those for:
- alcohol misuse
- high blood pressure
- hepatitis B or C
- lung cancer
Those services are available to all adults, and additional screenings are available for women, children, individuals at higher risk for certain conditions and people over 50. Taking advantage of them can help you detect and control a chronic illness or lower health risks through lifestyle changes, King says. Check your insurance policy to find out what other preventive services are available to you and your family.
Weight loss programs
Being overweight is hazardous to your overall health; it can complicate or raise your risk developing chronic diseases. Most health insurers have free online health coaching and help for weight management. If your weight is causing or complicating other conditions, your health insurance will cover nutritional counseling and weight loss programs. Some insurers also provide Weight Watchers discounts and will cover weight loss surgery if your doctor thinks it would be beneficial.
Free or discounted gym memberships
Even if you don’t need to lose weight, your health insurer may support your efforts to live a more active lifestyle. Most major insurers offer discounted membership rates to many athletic club chains, or reimbursements for those who keep a gym commitment. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan through a private insurer, your gym membership could be completely free.
Help quitting tobacco
If you use tobacco and want to stop, you’re in luck— your health insurer wants you to quit, too. That’s because as one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in America, tobacco use is also responsible for millions spent on health care services. If you quit, you can prevent some of those costs, as well as the tribulations of tobacco-related illness.
While programs vary by insurer, most have some resources to help you kick the habit. Some offer free, over-the-counter aids like gum or patches to help you quit smoking, or offer reimbursement for such products. Most other insurers offer free, personalized coaching with a counselor hotline to help you cope with the stress of quitting.
To receive proper care, you don’t always need to be in the same room as your doctor. In an effort to reduce unnecessary doctors’ visits and bills, more insurers are offering telehealth services.
Telehealth, or telemedicine, can include free nurse hotlines or a phone call or video chat with a doctor or pharmacist. This might seem geared for young, tech-savvy people, but it’s especially beneficial for elderly or disabled patients who don’t get around easily. Nurse hotlines are free, and telemedicine video chats are usually $50 or less.
Health cost calculators
You may already know about your health insurer’s member portal, where you can access policy documents and claims. Most major health insurers also offer calculators there that can help you understand your health costs.
If you use a lot of health services, a cost calculator can also help you budget for them; and if you have a health savings account or flexible spending account with your health insurance plan, you can use the cost calculator to determine how much to contribute to your account.
Whether you want to lower and budget for your health care costs or just live better, using these benefits will help you get the most from your health plan.