The cost of health care rises every year and coverage has been shrinking, which leaves a greater portion of the doctor bill to patients. It could be very beneficial to your fiscal health in 2016 if you made a few promises to yourself.
Get familiar with your coverage
Know the limits of your medical aid before you start using it. No one wants to begin the year with a nasty case of sticker shock from a steeper-than-expected doctor's bill.
Read: 14 quick facts on medical schemes in SA
The particulars of your plan may have changed compared with last year, and perhaps you missed the letter or email from your employer or insurer. An outpatient surgery that would have cost you R7 000 last year might run more than R9 000 this year if the plan increased your coinsurance responsibility, or the amount you have to pay after meeting a deductible.
Your deductible also may have jumped, which means you might have to spend more this year before most of your coverage begins.
Shop for care
Shopping for health care is the wave of the future.
Many employers and insurers are convinced that health care costs can be controlled better if providers are forced to compete for your business. Medical aid providers are providing online tools that let patients compare prices and quality measurements for a wide range of non-emergency care. Doing that could save hundreds of rands on an outpatient procedure for people with high-deductible plans.
Read: SA medical service providers are overcharging
But you don't need an app or some online tool to shop for all care.
Pharmacies and grocery stores have been squeezing clinics into their store spaces and many offer affordable services such as cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose checks.
Try something new
Telemedicine is supposed to be all the rage in 2016, with big providers like Discovery creating mobile apps that allow doctors to assist patients electronically.
Doctors have used video feeds and other technology for years to treat patients in rural areas or remote locations. But experts say growing smartphone use and customer demand are fuelling a rapid expansion of telemedicine into everyday care.
Know the deadlines
If you don't like your coverage, you can change it. But you have to know when the next chance will arrive.
Employers hold open enrolment periods every year, generally in December. That's the main window in which people can adjust coverage, unless they have a life-changing event, like a marriage or the birth of a child.
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