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By Diana T. Torres

Rising health care cost is cutting into the pockets of individuals and businesses across the nation. One way to stay ahead of the game is to learn as much as possible about your health insurance. Find out what your policy provides and take advantage of those services.

Here are a few tips to get you started: 

Preventative Care

Visiting the doctor for annual checkups is the first step in preventative care. Annual visits to the doctor are apt to catch something suspicious. An annual physical with an in-network provider (includes OB/GYN for women) will cost you nothing.

Dental visits every six months can save you from losing teeth or extensive repair work. Dentists have long-held that a checkup and cleaning every six months will keep your mouth healthy.  Visiting an in-network dentist for checkups and cleanings every six month will cost you nothing.

HSA Account 

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a bank account that provides an opportunity to save for your health care needs. In order to qualify for an HSA you must have a consumer driven health care plan and present the proper paper work at the time of application. HSA bank account holders can choose to save up to $3,100 for an individual health plan and $6,250 for a family.

Deductibles apply according to individual and family health care plans.

Another plus – The HSA account is 100 percent tax-deductible.

For more information on HSAs and taxes, go to the U.S. Department of Treasury Web site at http://www.ustreas.gov or talk with your tax advisor.

Dental – In Network (Contracted Rates) 

Visiting an in-network dentist will save you a nice chunk of change. Why? Most companies have contracted rates with network dentists that are usually much lower than their regular fee. Let’s say you visit the dentist for wisdom teeth extractions that total $2500. Because there is a pre-negotiated rate in place, once the paperwork goes through, you may pay something like $1850. That’s a savings of $650!