FAIR Health’s consumer website marked another year as the preeminent site for consumers to access accurate, actionable healthcare cost estimates and health insurance information. In a time of flux in healthcare policy at the federal and state levels, the site continues to serve as a lighthouse to consumers at sea among high-deductible health plans, narrow networks and other potentially confusing aspects of the healthcare marketplace. To that end, FAIR Health offers five tips for consumers below.
The past year has been one of honors for the consumer site, which FAIR Health, a national, independent, nonprofit organization, maintains as part of its mission to bring transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information. In 2016, the site earned a place on Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Best List as the “Best health care cost estimator.” The site’s mobile app version won a 2016 Gold award for Best Mobile Communications from the eHealthcare Leadership Awards—the fifth consecutive year that those awards honored the site or the app. FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd received a 2016 Dig|Benefits Technology Innovator Award sponsored by Employee Benefit News, citing her role in launching and directing the site and the app.
FAIR Health’s consumer offerings also garnered attention in 2016 from high-profile media outlets, such as Forbes, which recommended using FAIR Health’s FH® Consumer Cost Lookup tool in one of its tips for saving on healthcare costs, and Trend Hunter, which lauded FH Cost Lookup CT, the Connecticut version of the FAIR Health app.
This year’s crop of awards join the honors previously received by FAIR Health for its consumer offerings, including recognition from the White House, AHRQ, URAC and AppPicker.
Beyond awards, FAIR Health’s consumer site has been recognized by the health plans that have private-labeled it to inform and educate their own members. New York State recognizes the site as an official tool to support transparency on the NY State of Health exchange. Across the country, state statutes, regulations and memoranda make reference to the FAIR Health data that power the consumer site.
Five Tips for Healthcare Consumers
As part of its educational mission, FAIR Health offers the following five tips for healthcare consumers:
— Make sure you know whether your provider is in network or out of network (Remember: Out-of-network doctors such as radiologists and anesthesiologists may be involved in your care even if your hospital is in network. Make sure to ask well in advance of your procedure whether all doctors caring for you are in network).
— If you are going out of network voluntarily, understand what formula is used to determine your out-of-pocket responsibility. For example, it may be Medicare-based or based on “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) charges. (Estimates for both systems can be found and compared on the FH Consumer Cost Lookup.)
— If you receive a “surprise” out-of-network bill for emergency care or otherwise, determine whether your state laws provide consumers protection for such bills and limit your required payment to the in-network amount.
— Understand that you can enter into a discussion with your providers to try to negotiate your share of the costs by comparing your providers’ fees with the typical local charges for specific procedures that are offered by FH Consumer Cost Lookup.
— Familiarize yourself with the key terms and principles of health insurance so that you can be a better advocate for yourself as you navigate the healthcare system. See the FH Health Insurance 101 curriculum on the FAIR Health consumer site.