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Free services you may not know about from your health insurance plan

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Does your health insurance plan offer free services that you might not know about?

Most people don't take advantage of value added services that are free with their health insurance. Unless you take time to read all of your health insurance information you're likely to miss out on some benefits that most companies offer that cam help defer the cost sharing associated with co-payments and your insurance premium. Here are ten value added services worth knowing about that may be included in your health insurance coverage that are free.

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Taking advantage of all your health insurance has to offer can make things much more affordable. Most nurse case managers, including myself, agree that few consumers take advantage of free services that are included in their health plans.

  1. Mail order medications: Most insurance plans including Medicare Advantage plans have an option of ordering 90 days worth of medications via mail. Generic medications might be zero cost to you Depending on how many prescriptions you take that could add up to a significant amount of annual savings. For instance, if you take 5 generic medications that are $5 each at the pharmacy, your annual savings with mail order would be $300 - you could use that money for your "Christmas club".
  2. Free gym memberships are also a common value added service available through your health insurance plan. If your plan doesn't have a free gym membership it's likely there is a discount available. Even those with existing health problems can improve quality of life and help manage chronic diseases by joining a gym. Many insurance plans have partnered with Silver Sneakers to help their members with disease management and prevention.
  3. Free diabetes supplies: You can probably obtain your diabetes testing supplies (lancets, test strips) for no cost through mail order with your own insurance carrier.
  4. Nurse case managers are available to help guide your through managing your health issues. Other offerings through case managers include referrals to other programs including community based assistance for meals, transportation, social workers and more. Case mangers will liaison with your physician to get your health care questions answered. They can also guide you on how to get procedures and non-formulary and specialized medications approved. Case manages are patient advocates.
  5. Free nurse advice line: Check with your insurance company to see if a 24-hour nurse line is available. You can access a nurse to find out where to get the best care - for instance when you need to seek immediate medical care and the best place for treatment.
  6. Over the counter medications: Some insurance carriers offer a set amount each month toward purchase of over-the-counter health products such as aspirin, liniments, ointments, bandages and even blood pressure cuffs. Call your health insuranc benefits manager and ask what produces or discounts are available.
  7. Discounts on alternative health care: If you wish to see a chiropractor, get a massage or visit an acupuncturist your insurance plan may not cover the cost. But many offer discounts for alternative health care providers.
  8. Mental health counseling: Your insurance plan might provide free telephonic mental health counseling. Finding a mental health provider can sometimes be difficult. You can reach out through your health insurance carrier to find out if telephonic support for depression or anxiety is available at no cost to you.
  9. Field care managers: If you're having a difficult time filling out forms for patient assistance programs, Medicaid eligibility or just can't understand your hospital bills ask your health insurance company if there is someone that can come to the home to assist. Many Medicare advantage plans employ field care managers who are nurses and social workers that can come to your home to assist, make phone calls and help you gather up needed paper work to alleviate the stress of managing hospital bills and medication costs.
  10. Discounts on eyewear, hearing aids and life alerts are often a part of a health insurance plan's value added service. Knowing where to go to get discounts on products that can improve quality of life and help keep you or your parents safe in the home is important. Seniors and those with disabilities often lack the financial resources to purchase items that allow them to live independently. Check with your health insurance carries to find out who to contact to get discounts on eye glasses, in home monitoring services or hearing aids.

In addition to the ten things mentioned above, health insurance plans might offer wellness coaches for smoking cessation, weight loss and pain management at no extra cost. Some offer discounts on meals. Others offer free or discounted meals that can be delivered to the home after a hospital stay. The list of value added services varies with health insurance providers. You'll want to know exactly what is available under your own plan to maximize your benefits.

When you choose a health insurance plan you'll also want to ask your agent what types of value added services (VAS) are available. Obtaining health insurance isn't always about lower premiums and copayments. You can take back much of the cost of health care coverage by taking advantage of free and discounted programs that are available. Health insurance can be even more affordable when you take advantage of extra services that are free or discounted.