Smarter Spending

You have lots of opportunity to spend less and save more on health care when you think like a consumer. Here's what we mean by smarter spending. And below are a few ways to start now:

Smart tools worth knowing

Now that you're enrolled in the plan, use these helpful carrier tools to make better health decisions.
Check out the Smart Tools Worth Knowing page to see the full list of provider tools...and start spending smarter!

You and your doctor
These days it's so important to collaborate with your physician and have a two-way relationship. Start here.

In the past, people just did exactly what their doctors told them to do, without question. Times have changed. You still rely on your doctor, but you know yourself better than he/she does. And today, the average office visit lasts only about 20 minutes! To make sure you get the best health advice and treatment and the best value for your money, you need to be more of a partner with your doctor.

This means:

  • Know when and how to get medical care.
  • Know your medical history.
  • Follow your doctor's advice.
  • Get preventive care exams and screenings.
  • Take medications as prescribed.

And don't forget to ask questions!
You doctor can't read your mind, and may not cover everything you need to know. Try these conversation starters.

Here are some things you can ask your physician to help you better understand your health condition and to help your doctor help you.

Can you tell me what this diagnosis means? Ask for a full explanation—causes, how to treat the condition, how long will it take to get better. Ask if he/she has additional information you can take home with you.

Is there more than one way to treat this? Ask about how the treatment(s) works and side effects. Are there different treatment options available? What happens if you don't follow your doctor's recommendations?

What about medication? Can you go without it? How will this medication interact with what you're already taking, including supplements? What are the side effects? Any special instructions (for example, no alcohol, specific foods, should it be taken with meals, etc.)?

Why am I taking this test? What will it tell us about my condition? Is it worth the expense? How do I prepare for it? How long does it take? Do I need to bring someone to drive me home?

Do I need a specialist? Why? If so, can you recommend one?

What do I need to know about this surgery? Is one network facility better than another for this surgery? How long will it take? What are the risks? Will I have to stay in the hospital? How long will my recovery be? Is there another course of treatment other than surgery?

Should I make changes in my life to help this condition? Should I start or stop exercising? What about tobacco and alcohol? Does stress play a role? Do you have any suggestions for how I make these changes?

Is this covered under my medical plan? (You may want to ask this of the staff, as they deal more directly with plan provisions.)

What if I have more questions? Make sure you can call the office with additional questions, or if your condition gets worse, or you don't get your test results.

Don't pay more than you owe—review your EOBs
Treat your health care bills like any other bill you receive—make sure they're accurate! It's easy. Here's how.

You wouldn't pay for a hotel room, dinner out or groceries without looking at the bill to make sure you were charged correctly. The same holds true for your health care bills.

The best way to make sure your charges are correct is to review the Explanation of Benefits, or EOB, that your medical plan administrator provides you by mail or online.

Note for associates with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield: To avoid unnecessary confusion when you do not owe money for services, Highmark will no longer automatically mail you a paper Explanation of Benefits (EOBs). If you still want to view your zero-dollar claims, you may access them online or print them directly from the member website. Or, you can request a paper copy by calling Member Services at the number on the back of your ID Card.

These sample EOBs show where to look for important information on what is covered by your insurance and the balance you are responsible for.

Get confidential help with personal issues
Life throw you a curve? Need a referral for everyday issues like finances, child care, cars or college? The EAP is here to help. Check it out.

The Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) can help you manage stress and cope with personal concerns, such as depression and relationship problems. Learn more about the EAP.

Want to know more?

Get confidential help with personal issues from the EAP
If you have questions...

Know the cost before you buy

Know the Cost Before You Buy

You play a really important role in helping to slow down our health care cost trend. And you have access to easy-to-use tools and resources to help you do just that. Estimate the cost of your health care before you buy with these helpful tools:

  •—Register on the Aetna website and start saving using the Member Payment Estimator. Before purchasing health care services, you should know what they will cost. With this tool, you can find out what you'll pay and access the comparison tool so you can shop around.
  •—Register on the HighmarkBCBS website and shop for the best value using the Care Cost Estimator. Members can compare their estimated costs on common surgeries and procedures at different doctors, hospitals and medical facilities. The tool estimates member responsibility based on the plan's specific cost-sharing structure, including deductibles, coinsurance and copay amounts.
  •—Log on to the Express Scripts website to use its prescription price look-up function so you know the cost before you head to the pharmacy. And don't forget to check out the Express Script' My Rx Choices tool to help you save money on prescription drugs you take regularly.

Know where to go for care
It's really expensive to go to the emergency room for non-emergencies. Save money by going to the right provider. Here are some guidelines.

Know where to go—for care

The emergency room is the right place for real emergencies, but you'd be surprised how many people use very expensive ER services for the wrong reason! You pay an extra $150 out of your own pocket if you use the emergency room for any services other than true emergencies.

Where to go

What to go for

How much you pay




Physician's Office

Routine illnesses, conditions (for example: flu, respiratory infections, skin irritations)

$20 copay

40% after deductible

Urgent Care Facility

Minor injuries, sprains, cuts, abrasions, etc., or when physician's office is closed

$40 copay

40% after deductible

Emergency Room

True emergencies that if untreated could result in severe illness or injury or loss of life or limbs

20% after deductible + $150 copay
(copay waived if admitted)

Retail Clinics

Common family illnesses (for example: strep throat, bladder infections, pink eye), minor wounds, abrasions, skin conditions

$20 copay

40% after deductible


Talk online or on the phone with board-certified doctors who can diagnose and even prescribe medications for common, non-emergency conditions. Learn more


Tips for saving time and money

Everybody wants more time, and nobody wants less money. So here are some ways you can save time and money on your own and with your benefits—in ways you may not have considered.

Save Time and/or Money with Your Benefits

When it comes to:

Consider this:

Medical plans and costs

  • Don't buy more medical coverage than you use or need.
  • Use preventive care—it's free to you and your eligible dependents.
  • Is it less expensive to be covered by your spouse's plan?
  • Consider any anticipated health care needs for next year (pregnancy, surgery, etc.).
  • Use network providers – you'll always pay less.
  • Go to the right place for urgent care.
  • Ask your doctor for generic prescriptions. If a generic isn't available, ask for a brand name listed on the formulary (Express Scripts' list of preferred medications).
  • Use mail order for prescriptions you take every day.
  • Consider using the Health Care FSA to avoid paying income taxes on the money you pay for eligible medical expenses.
  • Think like a consumer when it comes to health care. Ask questions, do your homework. Don't assume "more expensive" automatically equals "better quality."

Personal issues

Use the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), which offers professional and confidential, 24/7 counseling services to help you and your family address personal concerns, relationships and life issues, as well as guidance on things like:

  • Legal and financial issues
  • Finding child or elder care
  • Planning for college
  • Relocating to a new city
  • Finding pet care
  • Purchasing a car
  • Home repair


  • Use the tax-advantaged BlackRock CollegeAdvantage 529 Plan to save for higher education expenses for you or a beneficiary.
  • If you are a salaried associate, the tuition reimbursement program will reimburse you up to $5,000 each year for classes that are part of a job-related degree program at an accredited college or university.

Family expenses

  • You can use the Dependent Care FSA to avoid paying taxes on the money you pay for eligible day care expenses so you (and your spouse) can work.
  • The associate discount program saves you and your eligible dependents from 10% to 25% on great store merchandise you can buy for personal use.
  • Our ScoreCard/Advantage Club programs allow you to earn the same points our customers do and redeem them for merchandise reward certificates.

Your future

Enroll and participate in the Smart Savings 401(k) Plan:

  • It's easy and convenient.
  • You pay no federal income taxes on your contributions.
  • Your contributions, any company match, and their earnings grow tax-deferred.
  • You choose how to invest the money in your account, with a wide range of investment options ranging from conservative to aggressive.

Save Time and/or Money On Your Own

When you're:

Try this:


  • Shop ahead for greeting cards and keep a stash at home.
  • Learn to say no to unnecessary or unrealistic purchases.
  • Try waiting a few days before making a purchase; you may change your mind.
  • Make a list before grocery shopping, and try shopping when you in a hurry—browsing leads to overbuying.
  • Buy in bulk, but only when it makes sense.
  • Do your homework and comparison shop before an expensive purchase.

At work

  • Do your hardest task first thing—the rest of the day will seem like a breeze.
  • Pick up the phone; it can be a lot faster than playing email tag.
  • Improve your typing speed—it's amazing how much time you can save.

At home

  • Cut back on TV watching and video games—you'll be amazed at what you can get accomplished.
  • Cook at home more often.
  • Chop veggies all at once for meals later in the week.
  • Use a crock pot; it does all the cooking for you.
  • Keep your cleaning supplies in a single container so you can go from room to room efficiently.
  • Make your own coffee occasionally instead of buying it on the way to work.
  • Take your lunch to work once in a while.
  • Drink filtered tap water instead of expensive bottled water—which, often, is just filtered tap water.
  • Cancel subscriptions to magazines you never read.

Thinking money

  • Consolidate your bills to a lower interest rate and pay off debt.
  • Avoid ATM fees by using your bank's ATMs or cashing a check.
  • Consider buying a pre-owned car; let someone else take the depreciation hit.
  • Keep your car in good shape (regular oil changes, etc.), and keep it as long as possible. A $0 car payment is awesome.
  • Depending on how long you plan to be in your home, consider refinancing it at a lower interest rate.