Your Prescription for Lower Health Care Costs
The combination of rising health care expenses and a lingering recession has many Americans feeling the pinch. We compiled 10 tips to help you combat these high costs without sacrificing the medical care you need.
- Stay Healthy: You’ve heard it over and over again – and that’s because it’s true! The best way to keep health care costs in check is to commit to healthy living. Take charge of your health by eating well, exercising and steering clear of unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive drinking. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, medical expenses for an obese person are about 42 percent higher than for someone of healthy weight. Likewise, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says it costs 18 percent more to insure a smoker than a nonsmoker.
- Take Preventive Action: Preventive care is crucial for keeping health care costs down over time, and most insurance plans now provide certain preventive-care screenings without charging deductibles and copays. Annual well-visits give your doctor an opportunity to provide necessary medical advice and identify health concerns before they become major issues. Preventive care saves money, but more important, it can be lifesaving.
- Choose In-Network Providers: If you have medical insurance, keep your out-of-pocket costs down by choosing in-network health care providers. This applies to your family doctor, specialists, healthcare facilities and even medical labs.
- Assess Urgency: If you need to see a doctor after hours, is it really necessary to go to the ER, or would an urgent care or convenience-care clinic meet your needs? Seeking urgent v. emergency care for your sprained ankle or seasonal cold can save you hundreds of dollars or more.
- Maximize Your Deductible: If you’re close to meeting (or have already met) your insurance deductible, schedule any necessary medical procedures or physician visits in the same calendar year. Your deductible starts over at year’s end, and waiting to schedule that procedure means you will pay a larger share of the cost.
- Inquire About Medical Necessities: Some medical procedures are urgent and necessary – others are less so. If money is tight – especially if you’re a private-pay patient, simply ask your doctor about the feasibility of delaying your procedure.
- Negotiate Costs: If you’re close to meeting (or have already met) your insurance deductible, schedule any necessary medical procedures or physician visits in the same calendar year. Your deductible starts over at year’s end, and waiting to schedule that procedure means you will pay a larger share of the cost.
- Review Your Coverage: If you’re self-insured, review your coverage annually to make sure you’re not under- or over-insured. If you’re insured through work, evaluate your plan during open enrollment. With health-care reform changes and a variety of insurance plans to choose from, the coverage you selected last year may no longer be the best option.
- Find Rx Discounts: Many pharmacies extend special offers on prescription drugs. One pharmacy may advertise a $4 cholesterol medication while another may offer a low-price on blood-pressure meds. When you need to fill a prescription, look around to find the best price for your medication. That means if you have multiple prescriptions, it may be more cost-effective to fill them at separate pharmacies, rather than all in one shot. Additionally, ask your doctor to prescribe generics whenever possible. Not only is the list-price lower, the coinsurance rates are usually lower.
- Consider Online and Mail-Order Prescriptions: When shopping around for the best Rx price, search the Web and mail-order pharmacies. You may find deep discounts online, and mail-order pharmacies often provide a three-month supply of drugs for the same price as one month at your neighborhood pharmacy.