10 Ways to Lower Health Care Costs

Health care costs can be a big part of one’s expenses. As one starts to get older, this becomes more and more apparent.  Once additional dependents get in the picture, this becomes a category of expenses that merits much more examination.

While we might spend all kinds of time trying to save money at the grocery store, restaurants, and other places – what about spending some time trying to save on health care?

Well, here’s a list of things you can do that could help you with that. Below are 10 ways to lower health care costs:

  1. Choose generic drugs instead of brand name. Generic drugs are generally equivalent to branded drugs, with the same efficacy and side effect profiles. The difference: they’re often much cheaper.
  2. Use mail order for prescriptions. You can obtain multiple months of a prescription through the mail, for a discounted price.  Though I’ve never had the reason to try it, I most certainly would if I had a chronic condition that required continual refills. Why pay more on a monthly basis?
  3. Ask for samples.  Perhaps you can get a product sample that will help you get started on a particular therapy – thus saving you money in the process? This happens all the time. Why not ask?
  4. Utilize a flexible spending account (FSA).  If you have the opportunity to take money, set it aside and not pay tax on it, why not do it? As long as it’s used for qualifying expenses, this one’s an easy choice. Make sure not to overestimate expenses, so you don’t lose what you set aside – or scramble at the last minute to use funds like I did last year.
  5. Stay within your network.  Going out of network for doctor visits and for procedures can cost significantly more money.  Take advantage of the lower prices that have been negotiated.
  6. Participate in wellness assessments.  This may not be an option everywhere, but I once got involved in a wellness program through a past employer, and got a financial benefit.  If offered, might as well take the opportunity for easy benefits.
  7. Review your bills thoroughly.  Billing errors do happen. When they do, doesn’t it often seem like they’re in the favor of the entity doing the billing? Taking the time to scan through each bill can be a good use of time, particularly if you end up catching a mistake.
  8. Negotiate your bill.  Ultimately, bills might be negotiable in some cases. A prior post I did on negotiating your medical bill illustrates how it could potentially be done. One way is to offer to pay up front, a lump sum that’s  less than the full amount owed. They just might take it. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Remember, simply asking can in some cases help a person avoid potential money problems.
  9. Avoid the emergency room.  OK, sometimes you just have to go the emergency room and there are no two ways about it. We all know that. However, there are other times where you just might have an alternative. An urgent care center can often provide fast care for some problems that occur, without an appointment, during business hours – and sometimes beyond. If your doctor doesn’t have an appointment for another week, and you need care, you could consider such centers. It beats the high cost of the ER!
  10. Make smart choices every dayEat well, get plenty of sleep, exercise, take care of your teeth, and make good choices every day. Lifestyle can play a big role in determining our health conditions, so it’s imperative to make smart decisions with the long-term in mind.  One trick – picture yourself older and in poor health, as a direct result of today’s bad decisions. That tends to  help motivate me and get me more disciplined, though I’m I work in progress!

My Questions For You:

Do you employ any of these strategies?

What other tips do you have for saving money on health care?

Comments

  1. Money Beagle says

    Since the insurance company has negotiated rates that lower the bill from what they originally charge, I have never been successful at being able to negotiate what’s left. Example: If the provider charges $1,000 but the insurance company / provider agree that $650 is fair, the $65 (or 10% co-pay) I have to pay is never negotiable. At least not that I’ve found!

  2. krantcents says

    I use all those strategies. It is sometimes really hard to use generic when there may not be one for a particular drug. I work with my doctor to find alternative solutions. Some work others do not. The key is that he is willing to work with me, but you have to ask.

    • Squirrelers says

      Krantcents – sure, I agree that it’s tough to make generics work when there isn’t one! Then, it’s a matter of looking at therapeutic alternatives. Sometimes there are other products that offer very good efficacy but have a different mechanism of action, and are technically different products. If there’s a generic for them, maybe it they can be alternatives to the product your doctor wants to prescribe where there aren’t actually any generic alternatives. Often times – and I might suggest most of the time – the patient just won’t know all the alternatives. This is why I agree with you that it’s smart to ask.

  3. shanendoah@Baking the Budget says

    We use the mail order for my husband’s migraine meds. We pay 2 months worth of copays for 3 months worth of pills.
    And, espcially for a chronic condition like migraine, that can have multiple causes, start with samples. Do NOT get an Rx until you know which of the meds actually works for you. Sample, sample, sample.

    For those without insurance, negotiating can work. But you may have to provide paperwork proving you’re low income. Still, for major bills like ER visits and surgeries, almost every hospital will allow you to go on an interest free payment plan that can make things much more manageable.

    And if you’re seeing a private physician and are short on cash, don’t have insurance, mention it to them. The MDs I used to work for often had enough samples of certain common meds that for patients without insurance, they could just give them enough samples to last as long as an Rx would.

    For people with insurance, the key component is understanding how your insurance works. It is not the job of the medical receptionist to know (though they probably do). It is your job. Take the time to educate yourself on what your insurance does and doesn’t cover, whether you need prior authorization, and what your rights as a patient and consumer are.
    Knowing these things can not only save you dollars but also a lot of time and energy.

    • Squirrelers says

      Shanendoah – good suggestions! I especially like your focus on understanding insurance. It’s important for each of us to take responsibility to understand our insurance plans, and get an idea of what is covered and what isn’t. Being informed can help us potentially make better decisions than we would otherwise.

  4. Hunter @ Financially Consumed says

    I like option #10 the best. Good health begins with making the right decisions, or at least balancing a few bad ones against an overwhelmingly healthy lifestyle. We just make it harder for ourselves when carrying too much weight, or by simply not drinking enough water. I think healthy food tastes better anyway.

    • Squirrelers says

      Hunter – yes, option #10 is kind of like part of the foundation of lower health costs. I know what you mean about healthy food tasting better….in most cases anyway:)

  5. World of Finance says

    If you do order prescription drugs online make sure you know exactly where it is coming from and trust the source! I’ve heard horrible stories about counterfeit drugs…. cheaper versions of these drugs that have harmful substances, not always noticeable at first and others right away. Great tips.

  6. Everyday Tips says

    We actually employ all these strategies. We got really burned last year when we went to the ‘urgent care’ area of my doctor’s office on a weekend for my daughter, and the idiot ‘weekend doctor’ panicked because her fever was high and sent her to the ER. I begged him to just do a strep test and he wouldn’t saying he knew it wasn’t strep. We then went to the ER, which did a strep test and gave her some advil to bring down the fever. Ended up costing me hundreds of dollars, but I had no choice.

    Prevention is definitely the key. Take care of yourself, and also get annual physicals and recommended tests. Tests may not be the most comfortable thing, but being sick isn’t very comfortable either.

    • Squirrelers says

      Everyday Tips – that must have been frustrating for you. Totally understandable. Good point on how tests may not be comfortable, but neither is being sick!

  7. Khaleef @ KNS Financial says

    We use generics when possible, ask for samples, and we have an FSA.

    We also are sure to stay within the network and we check our bills for mistakes.

    Ultimately, I think the best way to save money is by prevention. Which is why I’m trying to lose 100lbs!!!

  8. MoneyCone says

    Love the last point! And a great tip on generics. The savings are quite significant. Some doctors wont’ write you generics till you ask for it – I don’t know why they do that. They should know better.

    • Squirrelers says

      Moneycone – it’s good to go in to the doctor armed with some knowledge of potential treatments, as sometimes doctors will just prescribe what they think is most efficatious, while another agent nearly as good and very possibly effective enough could be much cheaper.

  9. Sharold Friedrich says

    Good topic. We try to avoid the Dr if at all possible. We try to take care of ourselves by eating right, and getting exercise. We also question treatments and want to know the why of tests ect. That being said one of our kids blew the cap on our insurance by the time he was 10. Sometimes there is nothing you can do

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