Your health insurance might offer unexpected savings. Some group and individual health insurers have negotiated discounts on behalf of their members on products and services. These discounts are not always well-publicized, and many plan members don’t even realize they exist. Read your health insurance company’s mailings, or visit its Web site to see if there are any special discounts through your plan. These discounts typically are categorized as “perks” rather than plan benefits, which means insurance companies can alter or discontinue them without first notifying plan members. Contact your insurance provider or the company featured in the offer to confirm that a discount still is in effect. Also, ask if any special rules or limitations apply.
Among the benefits found in many health insurance plans…
Fitness club memberships. Many health plans offer a discount of 10% to 20% or more off the cost of gym membership. This discount usually is available only at select national fitness chains, and you may have to prove that you use the gym regularly. Some plans also include discounts at yoga studios… or discounts on the purchase of fitness equipment from participating retailers.
Naturopathic treatments. Some insurance companies cover these treatments. Those that don’t may offer discounts of 20% or more on acupuncture, chiropractic services, massage therapy and hypnotherapy.
Example: Most Anthem Blue Cross of California members can get these discounts simply by showing their membership cards at participating providers.
Weight-loss programs. Savings of 20% or more off membership in national weight-loss chains, such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, are common. Even the special low-calorie meals required by some weight-loss programs may be discounted.
Quit-smoking programs. Insurance plans often cover quit-smoking programs in part or in whole. Discounts might be available on nicotine patches, gum and related products.
These perks turn up only occasionally in health insurance plans, but they are worth watching for…
Cosmetic surgery and dentistry. Cosmetic procedures typically are not covered by health insurance, but some plans do offer special negotiated rates on elective surgery at participating providers. Covered procedures could include Botox injections, face-lifts and tooth whitening. The savings often are 20% or more off standard rates.
Examples: Members of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina are eligible for significant discounts on cosmetic surgery through participating providers.
Vision correction. Some insurance companies offer discounts on eyeglasses, contact lenses, even laser surgery.
Example: Golden Rule (owned by UnitedHealthcare) offers 10% to 60% savings on eye exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses and LASIK laser eye surgery to their members through an affiliation with the Federation of American Consumers and Travelers.
Prescription and nonprescription drug coverage without a drug plan. Even if your health plan does not include drug coverage, there might be a discount of 10% or more if you purchase your drugs at a “featured” or “partner” drugstore.
Vitamins and supplements. Discounts of as much as 40% to 50% sometimes are available. You will need to buy your vitamins through a designated provider to receive these savings.
Book discounts. Some insurance plans have partnered with online book sellers to offer discounts of 5% or 10% on “featured” books. These books typically focus on health and/or wellness topics.
Travel discounts. Some major health insurers have negotiated discount rates for their members at hotel chains, car-rental chains and amusement parks. Savings of 10% to 20% are typical. Read the discount terms carefully — in some cases, members must provide special discount codes or reserve their discount rates in advance… in other cases, members simply show their insurance plan membership cards upon arrival.
Example: Members of Golden Rule can get 20% discounts at participating Choice Hotels International, such as Comfort Suites and Econo Lodge… 10% off Magellan’s Travel Supplies… and car-rental discounts.