We all know how expensive healthcare can be. I mean, we all agree that trying to stay alive and in good health shouldn’t cost so much, right? But I digress. We can only hope that there is a future where we would not have to worry about things like how life-saving medicine or procedures might leave us in eternal debt, but we need to accept the reality and learn how to get by in the meantime.
Doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, co-pays, premiums, etc., etc., etc. These costs can be heavy on your pocket, but the good news is that there are a few things you can do to lighten the burden. A little bit of comparison shopping and sleuthing can actually amount to a significant saving on medical costs.
Here are 10 ways to save money on healthcare.
Go for the Generics
If you are written a prescription for a drug, ask your doctor if there is a similar generic alternative. Brand names come with a significant premium and generic drugs work just as well in most cases.
Martin Rosen, the author of “The Healthcare Survival Guide” says that “taking the generic can be big, big savings.”
You can also ask your doctor if there is an over-the-counter alternative you can buy, especially for supplements like a prenatal vitamin or iron pill. Medication for conditions like gastrointestinal issues can also be found OTC. “There are a lot of plans that will charge a significantly greater copay if you use a brand name drug versus a generic,” says Rosen.
Ask and You Shall Receive – A Discount
You may think that your doctor’s office is the last place that would give a discount, but that’s not true. “61% of people who went to a doctor and asked for a discount actually got something,” says Rosen. “That’s a remarkable number.”
If you’ve been going to your doctor for a while and money is tight, you can definitely ask your doctor or healthcare provider to give you a discount on the cost of a doctor’s visit or even a medical procedure. You might be surprised at how willing they are to provide one!
Follow Doctor’s Instructions
Why go to the doctor if you do not intend on listening to them? When doctors write prescriptions for a certain time period, it is because the particular drug may take that much time to work. Even if you “feel cured”, it’s always best to take the full regime as there is lots of stuff happening inside our bodies that we do not know about.
“Around 20 percent of people never fill a prescription they get from their doctor,” says Larry Boress, president of the Midwest Business Group on Health. “Half of them don’t take it correctly, and half don’t refill it.”
Failing to follow the doctor’s instructions can make you end right back in the hospital, which adds another medical bill to pay.
You’ve probably always filled your prescription at the pharmacy down the street because it is convenient or because you thought that all pharmacies offer the same prices, but different places could be charging different prices even for the same drug! You could save quite a few bucks, especially at big box stores such as Target and Wal-Mart which offer extremely low prices on generic prescriptions.
So, make sure to call around and inquire about prices at different pharmacies. You can also use websites like Healthcare Bluebook to find the best healthcare prices in your area. “It’s definitely worth your while,” Boress says.
Compare Labs Charges
If your doctor has asked you to get an MRI or other lab test, call around to your local testing sites to compare the charges for the procedure. You may be able to find a way better deal than the suggested facility.
“There is a wide variation of pricing for the same procedure across the country and even within a given ZIP code,” says Rosen. “Depending on where the service is done, it could be significantly less expensive.”
Try Mail-Order Medications
If you are taking medication for a long-term condition such as cholesterol, diabetes, or even birth control, chances are that you will have to keep refilling your prescription every month or two. However, you can opt for a mail-order option if your health insurance has one. Typically, they will send you a 90-da supply of the medicine for a much lower price than the pharmacy.
Check out the Drug Manufacturer’s Website
If you are taking a brand-name drug regularly, visit the manufacturer’s website and scroll through the discount section. You may be able to get some good deals or coupons which reduce the overall cost. Boress says that there are several drug makers who do this now.
Check Your Bill
The Medical Billing Advocates of America say that about 80% of medical bills contain errors. That’s a pretty high percentage! Doctor’s offices and labs also make billing mistakes quite often, so it’s not far-fetched to imagine that there is an error on your bill too. Therefore, it’s a good idea to give the document a once-over before signing your name on that cheque. Also, make sure to call the doctor or hospital billing department to clarify a charge you’re unsure about (and be persistent!).
Consider A High-Deductible Plan
High-deductible health plans require you to pay more out-of-pocket deductibles before your insurance coverage kicks in. But the good news is that you can get a much better deal on monthly premiums for such plans when compared to traditional plans. Keep in mind that this does mean that you need to make sure you have enough cash to cover the deductible in case of an emergency medical bill. However, if you are a healthy individual who only goes to the doctor a couple of times a year, this may be the plan to help you save money. It is definitely worth considering before you dismiss it!
Use A Flexible Spending Account
If you opt for a flexible spending account (FSA), you get to put aside a portion of your salary to be used towards medical expenses throughout the year. The benefit of doing so is that these are pretax dollars and will be deducted from your taxable income, which means you will pay less tax come April – cha-ching! Check if your employer provides an FSA. If your healthcare costs are typically the same every year, this is a good option. However, keep in mind that whatever money you don’t use by the end of the year will need to be forfeited, so don’t get overenthusiastic about it!