Benefits office shares online tools to help employees comparison shop

The Consolidated Benefits Office (CBO) is hosting seminars in August and September to share a number of online tools available to all employees to estimate costs of planned procedures, compare prescription prices at local pharmacies and even determine whether your current health plan is the most cost efficient for you based on your historical claims data.

“With minimal plan design changes occurring this upcoming year, we decided to take this opportunity to host seminars where we can educate employees and retirees on tools and resources available to them to ensure they are making informed decisions when it comes to benefit plans and the services they utilize,” said Lauren Heath, CBO benefits coordinator.

One way that employees can begin to make more informed choices is by using one’s own data.

“We import claims data into the online benefits enrollment portal so when you’re selecting your health plan, you can compare plans based on usage,” Heath said.

Using the health comparison tool, employees can predict out-of-pocket costs for each health plan.

“For example, if you know you’re expecting a baby and will have an inpatient hospital stay, regularly use three prescription drugs, or if you’re scheduling an outpatient procedure like a knee replacement, you can plug in that data to get a projection of costs in each health plan,” according to Heath.

Simply choose your medical plan, click “personalize your estimated cost,” and select either “group average data” or “customize usage.” There is also a selection for national data option but that will be less accurate.

“As you play around with scenarios, the platform will readjust to show your best match,” Heath added.

The tool will be available during Open Enrollment, scheduled for Oct. 2-27. It is currently available for new employees signing up for benefits or those who have to make changes due to a qualified life event.

Two other tools that the CBO will demonstrate at the one-hour seminars are the pharmacy tool and the treatment cost calculator tool offered through the Optima Health member site.

Using the pharmacy tool, one can comparison shop for prescriptions based on costs and determine if there is a generic equivalent.

The Optima member site also offers a treatment calculator where one can comparison shop for procedures by ZIP code.

“Let’s say you need an X-ray,” Heath said. “You can select ‘X-ray’ and enter your ZIP code and it will show all of the different places, such as a hospitals, outpatient imaging labs or other medical facilities where you can get an X-ray as well as the costs.”

These are a few of the online tools that will be presented at the one-hour seminars which are scheduled from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Aug. 8 and Sept. 5 in the Municipal Center’s Building 19. Evening seminars will be held at Plaza Annex from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16, Aug. 24 and Sept. 7.

Heath invites everyone to come and learn about the tools and resources that are available to you so you can confidently make the best benefit decisions for you and your family.

For more information about these and other seminars, visit the CBO site.

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