How To Save Money on Medical Expenses and Health Care Costs
Health care costs and medical expenses are some of the most expensive bills we face. It is top on the list of challenges facing the healthcare system, and more people are now dealing with increased stress due to medical debt. In the United States, healthcare costs are a significant portion of expenses that households make annually.
According to data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that in 2020, the average American’s annual healthcare cost jumped by 9.7 percent, which translates to $12,530 per individual.
When we look at the average household income of around $67,000 (many even earn far less than this), you would agree that the cost of healthcare is a big chunk of a families’ budget.
Are you interested in exploring options for handling your medical costs without emptying your bank account? There are several ways to cut down on your health care costs, and you can start by going through some of the points below.
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Understand your Insurance Plan
Start by understanding your insurance plan. Most people do not have the time to study their insurance policy information. Carefully read through your insurance information and understand all the costs that you’re responsible for.
Is there a copay that requires you to provide a specific amount of your medical costs? Is there a deductible that expects you to provide a particular amount before your insurance begins to pay?
What are the medications that the insurance firm will cover? You can get answers to these questions by reading your insurance information. Find out which expenses are covered, the extent of coverage, and those that are not covered.
Stick with In-Network Providers
Part of the reason most health insurance plans want users to use specific pharmacies, doctors, and hospitals is that they are all a part of one particular network.
Your insurance provider may end up compelling you to settle more of the cost of treatment or even all the cost when you use a provider or service outside the network. This is regarded as an out-of-network bill.
The easiest way to avoid such bills is to speak to your insurance firm and request the complete list of pharmacies and providers you can use.
Also, check your health insurance for an approved list before your doctor refers you to a hospital or a specialist. Once you have confirmed, you can suggest that your doctor refer you to any of those services.
Shop Around for Care
If your healthcare cost is high, then another thing you can do to cut it down is to check out other options. Most times, people are not aware that a procedure may cost more at a hospital than another facility or even when one medical doctor versus another performs the same procedure.
Contact your hospital in advance and ask for invoice estimates in case of scheduled surgeries or procedures. Also, several insurance plans permit you to explore other in-network providers before finally fixing an appointment.
You can also find some insurers and hospitals that provide patients with online pricing tools to enable them to carry out real-time estimates.
But what if you want to keep your current doctor or provider? It wouldn’t hurt to ask whether they can lower the cost of providing the treatment in a different location. Remember, some doctors render their services in more than one facility and bill the same services differently at each of these facilities.
Based on your health plan, your doctor may lower the cost of rendering some services like testing, procedures, and vaccines in another facility.
Shop Around for Drugs
Apart from the cost of procedures, the price of prescription drugs may also differ across several pharmacies, so there is no harm in checking them out. If you’re not ready to switch to a cheaper drug, there are other ways you can save money.
For instance, you can switch your pharmacy. Most times, the cost of prescription drugs at pharmacies in warehouse clubs is significantly lower than that of drugstore chains.
In fact, there is no need for membership before making use of the pharmacy. Also, you can find lower prices for several drugs in retail chain stores such as supermarkets.
To discover the lowest prices in your location, check out sites such as RxSaver or GoodRx. A good number of insurance firms also grant their clients great discounts when they make use of mail-order pharmacies.
If your insurance firm lacks this type of discount, you can still save by ordering online. Remember, you can get lower prices on various essential prescription drugs in Amazon Pharmacy.
Consider Generic Drugs
Did you know that there is a generic form for many top brand name prescriptions? Going for generic drugs is an excellent way to save on medical bills since most brand-name drugs often have higher copays. When filling your prescription, ask your pharmacist about the generic type.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the average generic drug is between 80 to 85 percent less expensive than the name brands. You would agree with me that the difference is enormous and worth trying.
Are you worried about how effective and safe generic drugs are? Well, the law stipulates that generic drugs must provide the clinical benefits that the known brands provide. They should have the same strength, dosage, and active ingredient. However, they may differ in their inactive ingredients as well as in appearance.
Set up a Health Savings Account
Do you have a high-deductible health plan? If yes, then why not set up a health savings account? It will enable you to save for things not covered by your health plan.
Remember, your financial contribution (or that of your employer) to the account grows tax-free and is actually tax-deductible.
Also, the money you take out of the account is tax-free, provided it is utilized for a qualified medical expense.
Ask for Discounts and Need-Based Assistance
Sometimes when people receive their medical bill, they see it as final. I can assure you that you can still negotiate with the provider, especially when paying out of your pocket.
Negotiating your medical bills before you get care is never a crime, so go ahead and request up-front pricing for every non-emergency procedure and test. Are there any discounts available?
Sometimes, providers grant discounts when patients settle their bills in cash instead of using a credit card. You may also be eligible for a “charity care” or an “ability to pay” program in a healthcare facility.
Find out if the hospital has patient negotiators or a billing department that can assist with negotiating the bill.
Take Advantage of Wellness Programs
Insurance companies are always interested in keeping their clients healthy, which will also help lower their costs.
To accomplish this goal, they often grant people access to wellness programs that help to improve their physical fitness, drop smoking and even learn improved eating habits.
You can enjoy some of these wellness programs at a discounted rate or for free, and some of them include health coaching, fitness trackers, and gym memberships.
You may even be lucky to find plans that take things further by paying you to participate.
Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle
There are several ways to lower your long-term healthcare expenses; one is to embrace a daily health and wellness routine. Ensuring that you stay healthy will help you cut down on your long-term healthcare expenses and also get to live longer. Some excellent ways to stay healthy are:
- Exercise regularly
- Stay away from tobacco
- Workout regularly
- Tame your stress
- Sleep sufficiently
- Make use of safety gear
- More water and less sugar
- Move more and sit less
Don’t be Afraid to Negotiate Prices
Are you aware that the healthcare industry is becoming highly competitive? This also means that retaining existing customers is one of the long-term interests of providers.
Sometimes, all you need to do to enjoy discounts is to ask questions and it wouldn’t hurt if you request a discount. Some providers may be ready to accept a lower fee when you pay in cash instead of using insurance.
By paying cash, they avoid the stress of submitting a claim and expecting to get their funds later. Cash works for medical expenses such as:
- Outpatient surgeries
- Physical therapy
- Prescription drugs
- Some blood tests
- CT scans
If you can settle your bill promptly and thoroughly, consider talking to the billing office staff to find out if they would be interested in working with you to set up a plan that would make your payments more manageable, smaller and spread over a longer time.
In case you’re still experiencing challenges in paying your medical bills, why not explore other health insurance plans? Find a plan that suits your needs.
Deductibles, copays, annual maximums and other fees often differ between insurance plans.
Go for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA)
You can settle your health care expenses with a health savings account; just like a 401(k), it is a tax-advantaged account.
The money you add to the HSA account is pre-tax dollars that actually earn money since it is an investment account.
By signing up for both accounts, you can contribute part of your pre-tax funds and later use the funds to settle qualified medical expenses such as prescriptions, coinsurance, copays, and several others.
You can use a FSA in case you’re not eligible for an HSA. Utilize the deposited pre-tax dollars in the FSA to settle your health care expenses for the year.
Avoid putting too much money into the FSA and if at the end of the year, you find extra funds in the account, then spend it by purchasing an extra pair of glasses or even stocking up on meds.
Knowledge plays a vital role when exploring options for lowering your health care costs. By becoming educated about your choices for care, health insurance, and your health generally, you will significantly increase your chances of enjoying the kind of care you need at an affordable rate.
Learn more and ask questions. Is your doctor trying to choose a treatment option that is not okay for your budget?
Go ahead and speak for yourself, and always know that you have the final authority regarding your health care and not your doctor. You can either turn down treatment or choose an alternative option.