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5 Ways to Avoid Unexpected Costs

We all know that staying healthy is the best way to avoid medical costs. That’s why you can take advantage of free fitness classes at Your Blue StoreSM and our healthy living programs. However, when you do need care, these tips can help you get the most value from your BCBSRI plan.

1. Avoid going to the emergency room if it’s not an emergency.

Instead, see your primary care doctor or use BCBSRI Doctors Online.

Urgent and emergency room care is essential for serious health problems. But for a cold or minor injury, you’ll save time and money by going to your primary care doctor, as shown by the costs below.1 If your doctor’s office is closed, talk with a board-certified doctor on your smartphone, tablet, or computer with BCBSRI Doctors Online. You and family members on your plan (including your children) can receive convenient care for common, non-emergency health issues.2 Download the BCBSRI Drs. Online app from the Apple App Store or Google Play3 or visit

Primary care doctor

Doctors Online

ER visit

2.  Avoid paying too much for a test.

Instead, compare prices to lower your costs.

The cost for some medical tests can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on where you have it done. If it’s not an emergency, ask about the cost before having a blood test or imaging test (such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan). If your doctor doesn’t know, ask the testing center or hospital directly. You can also compare costs by logging in to and clicking on “My Cost Calculator.” You’ll find real results like the estimated average costs below.

Cost estimate: Spine MRI

At a Hospital: $1,195
At a Doctor’s Office: $380

3. Avoid taking a brand name drug when a generic is available.

Instead, ask your doctor or pharmacist if a lower cost generic drug is available.

Generic drugs are made from the same key ingredients as brand name drugs—but can cost up to 85% less. See more on prescriptions.

Common cholesterol drug*
Brand name


4. Avoid using an out-of-network doctor.

Instead, see one of the many doctors in our network.

All of our BCBSRI plans include a range of high-quality primary care doctors, specialists, and hospitals. Staying in the network will save you money because of BCBSRI’s discounted rates with doctors and hospitals. To find a doctor near you, use our Find a Doctor tool or download the Your Blue Touch app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.2

In-network specialist visit

Out-of-network specialist visit

5. Don’t ignore your Healthcare Services Summary, which explains the costs of your recent medical care.

Instead, check your Healthcare Services Summary against your medical bills.

Whenever you help pay for a service, we mail you a Healthcare Services Summary. This document (which is not a bill) shows:

  • The total amount billed by your doctor or the hospital
  • The discounted rate that BCBSRI negotiates with your doctor
  • How much you saved by using the BCBSRI network
  • The amount BCBSRI paid
  • The amount you will owe to the doctor

You can view this same information by logging in to and clicking on Claims in the left-hand menu. When you receive a bill from your doctor or hospital, compare it to the amount on your Healthcare Services Summary. If they don’t match, call your doctor or Customer Service to make sure you’re not paying too much.

Want to learn more? See an interactive explanation of your Healthcare Services Summary.

1Estimated average costs are not an exact calculation of your actual costs and do not reflect all of the terms, conditions, limitations, and exclusions that may apply to your coverage. Your actual costs will vary depending upon the specifics of your benefit plan and the particular services and supplies you receive.

2Standard mobile phone carrier and data usage charges apply. The downloading and use of the app is subject to the terms and conditions of the app and the online stores from which it is downloaded. Apple and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc.

3BCBSRI Doctors Online is not available with all plans. In the case of an emergency, you should always call 911. Doctors Online is not intended to replace these services and should not be used in those circumstances. Doctors Online is a telemedicine service provided by American Well®, an independent company that administers Doctors Online on behalf of BCBSRI.