Are you a good healthcare consumer?
From the cost of prescription drugs to availability of flu shots, health care has been at the top of the national news this year. It’s a hot topic in the workplace, too.
Many organizations are educating their employees to be effective “healthcare consumers.” That’s because employees, not employers, buy and use healthcare services.
What does being a “healthcare consumer” mean? It’s a term that includes becoming involved in your health care, taking responsibility for making smart healthcare decisions and leading a healthy lifestyle.
An active healthcare consumer at Temple is someone who:
• Considers the true cost of health care when making decisions.
• Looks for how and when to manage health problems on their own.
• Communicates with their doctor and shares in decisions.
• Uses self-care when appropriate.
• Makes thoughtful provider selections.
• Manages their own chronic conditions and actively participates in Connections Health Management through Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield.
• Practices prevention and knows what to do for early detections.
• Pursues a healthy lifestyle by engaging in activities to maintain or improve health.
With the help of the University’s benefit plans, you can be a good healthcare consumer and make the most of your medical benefits at the same time. Here are several of them:
Flexible spending accounts: Save money through the Health Care Spending Account by setting aside up to $2,500 each year on a before-tax basis to pay for eligible healthcare expenses. When you receive reimbursement from your account, it’s tax-free.
You can save from 25 percent to 40 percent on your contributions, because you never pay taxes on them. Co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance, uncovered dental and vision care and the cost of many over-the-counter drugs can be reimbursed through the account.
Sign up for next year now. Open enrollment for the 2005 healthcare account (and dependent care account) continues through Dec. 29. Using the accounts in 2005 will be especially easy with the introduction of debit cards for those employees who sign up.
Visit www.wageworks.com to take advantage of the online tools to estimate out-of-pocket medical (and dependent care) expenses and tax savings for 2005.
Learn more at information sessions for employees. The schedule will be in the Temple Today e-mail newsletter. Call the Benefits Department at 204-1321 today to confirm your eligibility for the accounts.
Prescription drug coverage: Whether used as a separate program or incorporated into a plan, Temple’s medical insurance covers generic drugs, which can save up to 90 percent over the cost of brand-name drugs. When your doctor prescribes a medication, be sure to ask if generics will do the job.
Preventive care benefits: Both Personal Choice and Keystone Health Plan East encourage employees and their families to get regular screenings to detect potential problems early and avoid costly medical problems later. Staying healthy improves quality of life and can lower the cost of medical care.
For information in making healthcare decisions, check out these resources:
Independence Blue Cross Web site at www.ibx.com for:
• Participating providers. By using a doctor or hospital from Independence Blue Cross’ extensive network, you lower your out-of-pocket expense (co-pay, deductible and coinsurance) and the cost to the University.
• Wellness benefits: Online health assessments to help identify health problems you may be at risk for developing and how to head them off; reimbursements for wellness programs to quit smoking, lose weight or start an exercise program; maternity programs for all stages of pregnancy; and Connections Health Management to support employees and their family members with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung or breathing problems or heart conditions (available 24 hours a day, every day of the year by calling 1-800-ASK-BLUE).
• Health information from nationally recognized health sources on screenings, general health and safety, family health and seasonal topics, and an online magazine, Health & You.
HR Matters–Benefits Edition newsletters are posted on the Human Resources Web site, at www.temple.edu/hr/benefitsNewsletters.html.
Loaded with resources and Web sites, they can help healthcare consumers with topics such as “10 questions to ask about your hospital bill” (July 2004); “Generic drugs: Facts and questions to ask” (August 2004); “12 questions for your doctor” (September 2004); and “Online health websites: Whom to trust” (October 2004).
Health care is both a benefit and a responsibility. Do your part to manage this year’s $60 million employee medical insurance cost at Temple by making informed decisions and staying healthy. Remember, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to buying and using healthcare services.
- By Irene Monley