BATON ROUGE, La. – It’s a New Year, and for many people, that could mean changes to your healthcare coverage. If you chose a new health plan or Medicare plan, that coverage took effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
For those who are on the same plan, the New Year is also when any changes to covered services or your cost sharing (copays, coinsurance or deductibles) typically take effect. And, if you have a health plan with a deductible, that resets at the start of each year.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana reminds everyone that the start of the year is a good time to review your health benefits, starting with your summary of coverage. This can help you be prepared to use your healthcare benefits all year long and understand what your out-of-pocket costs will likely be. That’s especially important if you know you’ll have a big healthcare need this year, such as welcoming a new baby or having a surgery or procedure.
Some things Louisianians can do to get the most out of their healthcare coverage include:
Check your Summary of Benefits, either in booklet form or online. And, check your health insurance member ID card – this will have the information about your plan you’ll need to present when you see healthcare providers or get a prescription filled at the pharmacy. Make sure it’s correct. Your card is also where you can usually find the number to Customer Service for your health plan, to call if you have any questions. If you get your healthcare coverage through work, you can ask your employer for more information about any changes to your plan benefits for 2021.
Know what you’ll pay. Look at how healthcare services are covered on your plan and what your out-of-pocket costs could be – that varies by plan, and it includes deductible, cost share and copays. If you know in advance what your payment is likely to be, you can plan ahead for any health expenses you anticipate.
Shop around for healthcare services. Blue Cross has a tool called SmartShopper that lets you see what you’d pay for hundreds of common procedures and screenings with different providers near you. Most other health plans offer similar services. Taking some time to shop for procedures, screenings or tests you know you’ll need this year can save you money, so explore your options.
Stay in your network. Generally, you will pay less out of pocket when you see in-network providers or go to hospitals and clinics that are in your network. Make sure any places you plan to go for care or any healthcare providers you plan to see are in network for your plan. If they are not, look for providers in network. It’s also a good idea to review drug coverage for your health plan and make sure any medications you take are included.
Schedule a wellness visit with a PCP. The year has a habit of getting away from us, so start thinking now about making an appointment for an annual wellness visit with your primary care provider. Everyone should have at least one checkup a year to look at their numbers for key indicators like blood pressure and blood sugar and to find out about any screenings, tests or immunizations you need, depending on your age and health history. Adults age 65 and older or people who have long-term conditions like diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure may need more frequent checkups. Plan an annual wellness visit for your children, too. The annual wellness visit is especially important if you put off any checkups last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Look into wellness programs or services. Many New Year’s resolutions involve our health. Blue Cross and most other health insurers have programs to help you get more exercise, eat healthy or quit smoking and using tobacco. Many of these services are available at very low or no cost to you. Check into what’s available to you so you can start the New Year off on the right foot.