One of the issues that we all face in health care is the rising out of pocket or out of paycheck costs. You can’t control all aspects of your health care costs, but you can try some of these cost saving measures:
- Know the rules of your insurance provider. Be sure you have to up-to-date knowledge of your physicians’ and hospital networks, your out of pocket deductible, the dates of your plan and your co-pays for doctors, lab work, screening, emergency room and urgent care visits.
- Be sure your doctor and you are on the same page regarding costs. Make sure that your doctor understands that you are trying to save money, so that prescribed medication is not cost-prohibitive.
- Do your homework. If you have a large deductible to meet and you have an upcoming procedure, find out what the costs will be. If you need a surgical procedure, sometimes outpatient centers are much less costly than traditional large hospitals.
- Understand your options with your medication. If you take a 20 mg pill which is also available in 40 mg, it may be possible to order the larger pill and split it, saving yourself some money. Or sometimes, the reverse is true: the smaller pill is much less expensive than the larger one. You can take two pills instead of one. Discuss these possibilities with your health care providers and your pharmacists. Not all pills can be split or doubled.
- Find cheaper alternatives that provide similar results. Generic drugs may be a good fit (they also sometimes are not). Certain complementary practices like massage and acupuncture can substitute for other more expensive medications.
- Understand what a true emergency is and reserve emergency room visits for just those. Chest pain? Go to the ER. Sore throat on the weekend? This is a great reason for a trip to the nearest urgent care or convenience clinic.
- Utilize your employer’s health savings account to the maximum allowable, but make sure you use all of it. Add up your expected out of pocket medical costs from medication, physicians’ visits, contact lenses and glasses and dental and orthodontic care. Have your employer deduct the maximum allowable amount to get as close to your annual outlay as possible. At least, you will not be taxed on these amounts. In addition, many HSA’s are now issuing debit cards that are pre-loaded with your deducted money that can be used at pharmacies, doctors’ and dentists’ offices and hospitals and clinics.
- Don’t scrimp on what’s already free. Lots of screenings are now free with no copay: mammograms, PAP smears, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. Ask your doctor or your health care plan administrator what is free and sign yourself up!
The best way to control costs is to do your research and work in partnership with all of your health care providers and your insurance providers, too.