Americans have found themselves having to pay a higher proportion of their medical costs in recent years, and thus saving money on these costs has become increasingly more important. More and more Americans have access to health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act, but unfortunately, many of these plans have high deductibles. The first piece of advice given to consumers by insurance experts to help keep their costs as low as possible is to ask plenty of questions. Find out if there is a generic variation available of any medicines prescribed, if certain tests are really necessary, or if there are cheaper alternatives to any recommended treatment.
The key to saving money on your medical expenses is to also shop around. Get in touch with a variety of different doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. In addition, if you are required to pay for the majority of costs yourself due to a high deductible it may be advisable to ask your healthcare provider for a cash price, which can be less expensive that the cost quoted if you pay via your health insurance policy.
If you are in the market for health insurance then it is important to start by choosing the right policy to fit your needs. There are a multitude of different plans available; in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for example, there are 94 plans on offer via the Affordable Care Act exchange. Your plan should cover access to doctors and any necessary medications, and care for any chronic conditions. When you do take out a policy be sure to read the small print; find out about coinsurance for procedures, copays for doctor’s visits, visits to the emergency room, and preapprovals.
If you are prescribed medication then shop around before you fill your prescription. Many supermarkets in the US including Wal-Mart and Target offer cheaper generic drugs. Also, take into consideration that the very latest drugs are not always superior to older drugs, yet are usually more expensive.
Some tests, procedures and prescriptions are not really necessary. Let your doctor know that you have to pay for any treatment that is recommended, and he or she may advise you to wait a little while, if the problem is minor, to see if the condition improves over time. In the same way, if you are advised to have physical therapy then don’t pay for a number of sessions upfront; just pay for one and see if you are able to continue with the exercises at home.
There are often health fairs held in every area that offer free screening services for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and HIV. Take advantage of these, and also be aware that, legally, all ACA-compliant insurance plans are obliged to provide a number of screening services without copays.
Remember that prevention is better than cure; treating disease is far more expensive than preventing it. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, and take prescribed medications to keep on top of chronic conditions.
Don’t visit the emergency room if your condition isn’t serious. It is cheaper to attend an urgent care centre or store clinic for minor ailments. Find out what sort of facilities are available in your area so that you know exactly where to go should you suffer a minor illness or accident. Depending on the problem some doctors offer consultations via email, video or telephone which tend to be less expensive than personal consultations (it currently costs around $50 for a 10-minute video consultation). Some health insurance providers and employer plans also provide a free telephone hotline service where advisors can give you advice on whether it is necessary to seek urgent care.
If you are admitted to hospital or undergo an expensive procedure ask for an itemized bill and speak to the hospital’s billing department about financial aid, which is a discount that you receive for paying in cash or via a payment plan. If your bills are high you could employ someone to act on your behalf to negotiate a better deal.
When you do receive a medical bill or a statement from your insurer then be sure to check it carefully for errors. Mistakes in coding can happen, and this type of mistake can mean the difference between a procedure without copay and one that costs $800! Keep a record yourself of who you talked to, and when, and look, in detail, at the statement that summarises which services and procedures are covered by your health insurance, and which you have to pay for out of your own pocket.
It helps to keep copies of your medical records and test results, and to take them with you to consultations. By doing this, if you have had a test recently then it will not have to be repeated. In addition, if you provide your doctor with any relevant test results then he or she can plan a course of treatment straightaway without the need for setting up a further appointment after the test results arrive.
You can save money on your health insurance in a number of different ways. It is vital that you investigate thoroughly all your healthcare options, including both insurance and healthcare providers, and to think carefully about whether all treatments offered to you are strictly necessary, and whether they have a cheaper alternative. Finally, by eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly you can also avoid many common illnesses thus keeping your healthcare bills to a minimum.