KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Health insurance has changed drastically, even in the last ten years.

Gone are the low deductibles, which means customers are paying more out-of-pocket expenses. We talked with a Holston Medical Group (HMG) health professional who says asking questions and being a smart healthcare consumer can help lower bills.

We have insurance to avoid huge medical bills, but sometimes it seems no matter what, we’ll be paying a lot of money for procedures and medication.

Holston Medical Group’s Dr. Cheryl Stanski describes the changes.

“Because of these changes, the burden on patients is a lot greater, and it’s much more important to understand what you’re getting for your money, making sure it’s as low-cost as possible, while still maintaining that excellent quality,” Stanski said.

Dr. Stanski says taking an active role in healthcare decisions will help.

“They (patients) need to communicate with their insurance company,” she says, “and really understand what is covered, what is not, and what is the best deal for them.”

Navigating healthcare coverage is not easy.  But Stanski says eating healthy and preventative care now, may help avoid big surgeries and expensive medications later.  Digging into your insurance coverage may help find less expensive medication.

“Most insurance companies have what’s called a formulary, which is a list of medications they cover.  So, get a copy of that,” she advises. “So, by having that list, we can go through it with you, pick the medications that are going to take really good care of you, but also be less expensive.”

She says a good relationship with your doctor can help you decide which treatment path to take.

“Talk to your doctor.  Talk to your insurance company.  Really learn as much as you can about what things are going to cost. It takes some leg work, but if you do that you can really reap a lot of benefits,” she says.

Dr. Stanski says to also look for independent diagnostic centers for things like mammograms and MRI’s, and use an Urgent Care instead of the Emergency Department for illnesses and injuries that are not life-threatening.