3 things you can do to save money on health care

AURORA, Colo. -- Half of all Americans get their health insurance through their jobs.

A new study by the Health Care Cost Institute shows when it comes to out-of-pocket costs, most families with employer sponsored healthcare pay more than $1,200 each year. That's up 15 percent from five years ago.

Health experts tell the FOX31 Problem Solvers managing these costs doesn't have to be difficult because help is available. You should consult your insurance company about the best value for in-network care and budget for out-of-network care if necessary.

Your doctor and hospital can provide assistance as well.

Dr. Pierre Onda of Kaiser Permanente tells FOX31 assistance for patients who need guidance can be found beyond the billing department. Doctors are now trained to consult with patients about the best and most cost effective approach to their treatment.

Dr. Onda emphasizes that every patient should make sure they read their health insurance policy and ask questions if they don't clearly understand how co-pays and deductibles are processed.

Dr. Onda adds that new technology allows patients to avoid unnecessary office visits under the right circumstances.

"Using chat, email ,telephone call video visits, what we're hearing is 'wow this has saved me an office co -pay,'" Onda said. "We are in fact starting to be able to see evidence of decreased utilization of emergency rooms and decreased utilization of urgent care."

Cost calculators are also available online for most medical facilities that will help you get a realistic idea of how much you will pay out of pocket for surgeries, pregnancies, and other forms of care.

Representatives at Swedish Medical Center tell FOX31 financial planning information and counseling is available to patients online and via telephone. Swedish has been making detailed pricing information publicly available since 2007.

The staff there strongly encourages people who have health insurance to consult with their health insurer to determine accurate information about their financial responsibility for a particular health care service provided.

A spokesperson adds that it's important to note that what patients actually pay for hospital services has more to do with the type of insurance coverage they have than amounts on the chargemaster, which is what is required to be posted.

Government programs like Medicare and Medicaid determine how much they reimburse hospitals, and insurance plans negotiate rates. Uninsured patients are eligible for free care through the medical center's charity care program or they receive uninsured discounts.

Swedish Medical Center expanded discounts to help more patients in 2017, including those who are uninsured or underinsured and who may have trouble paying for hospital services by capping bills for eligible patients who earn up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

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