Heath & Wellness | Prevention

When It Comes to Your Health, It Helps to Shop Around

There are more options than ever for your health insurance needs – but that’s not necessarily a good thing unless you know how to navigate them.

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There are more options than ever for your health insurance needs – but that’s not necessarily a good thing unless you know how to navigate them. Health insurance is one of the most complicated and potentially life-altering purchases you can make, so doing your homework is a must.

If you’re an individual or business owner looking to buy a plan for yourself, your family or your employees, HealthSource RI is a handy place to start. The state health exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, HealthSource has been lauded as among the nation’s best and most effective. It’s a one-stop online shop for information and access to plans – plus you can purchase your plan and pay your bill through their website. Their marketplace includes all the big names, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Neighborhood Health Plan and United Healthcare, along with dental plans like Blue Cross and Dental Dental. HealthSource also offers additional support services, like Navigators, who can walk you through the process of choosing and purchasing your own plan, or Brokers, who can help employers shop around for the right plan. healthsourceri.com

If online shopping is not the way you like to make big decisions, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island gives you the opportunity to interact with real live human beings in the actual physical world. Their three Your Blue Store locations in Lincoln, Warwick and Bristol offer free parking and service in English or Spanish. You can shop for a plan, including exploring your Medicare options, make payments and take free classes. They offer health care screenings, sessions on nutrition and exercise, tobacco and weight management groups – you can even take Zumba. 300 Quaker Lane, Cowesett Corners, Warwick. 576 Metacom Avenue, Unit 18, Bristol. 622 George Washington Highway, Suite A-06, Lincoln. bcbsri.com

Both Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island and United Healthcare provide robust online gateways to their information and coverage options. You can browse all of their plans for both individuals and small businesses, check out Medicare options, find doctors and purchase and pay online. The more information you explore, the better equipped you’ll be to make this very important decision. nhpri.org, uhccommunityplan.com

USAA provides a huge portfolio of insurance and financial services to current and former service members and their families. Although health insurance is not one of them, USAA does make sure its members can shop for the best plans and prices with its USAA Health Insurance Marketplace. This online portal provides tools to compare and purchase plans for major medical, Medicare, dental, vision and long-term care. usaa.com

Of course, just having options to purchase a health plan is often not enough to get you or your family the care they need. Things like dental, eye care, long-term care and prescription coverage can range from fairly limited to nonexistent in many employer-provided plans, and it takes a crafty shopper to close those gaps.

Many people have AAA memberships just in case they ever break down on the side of the road, but may not realize all the services that come with that card. AAA Southern New England offers both dental insurance and long-term care plans to members. You can browse plans and purchase coverage on their website. Members also have access to the AAA Prescription Savings program, which provides discounts of up to 50% at participating pharmacies – they even help with some pet prescriptions. southernnewengland.aaa.com/insurance, aaa.com/prescriptions

It pays to buy in bulk, and prescriptions are no different. The CVS Caremark Mail Order Direct program allows you to purchase a 90-day supply of certain medications for a low, fixed price. Shipping is free, and they can contact your doctor to obtain a new prescription for you if necessary. caremark.com/nlc/mod.htm

Aflac has made its whole business on the gaps that your regular health insurance doesn’t cover. They provide supplemental plans for a variety of things like dental, vision and hospital coverage, but you can also ensure you’re covered for the unexpected, too. Their cancer, critical illness and short-term disability insurance plans can take care of expenses that traditional medical plans won’t, including lost wages. aflac.com

Finally, smart financial planning based specifically around healthcare costs can be a real lifesaver. Health Equity is a nationwide health savings trustee that helps you take financial control of your healthcare. They provide health savings accounts that allow you to put a little something away before taxes, and can even lower your monthly insurance premiums, along with flexible spending accounts and health reimbursement arrangements. healthequity.com