How to save money on health care

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Young woman visiting doctor
Image Credit: Dreamstime

You probably don’t need anyone telling you that medical costs are eating up a greater and greater percentage of many people’s budgets. According to Statista, Americans will spend on average more than $11,000 on health care this year. That’s more than double what we shelled out as recently as the year 2000!

But there are still some things you can do to reduce your medical expenses. Let’s go over some ways to save…

9 ways to cut your health care costs

1. Shop different health insurance providers during open enrollment

Health insurance is complicated, for sure. It’s important to understand how health insurance works and how to pick the right insurance plan for you.

Of course, if you’re on a company plan, enrollment in your company’s health insurance will typically save you the most money, but not always. It’s best to shop around to know for sure.

Also, check into insurance providers that lower premiums based on activities you can do, like eating healthier or establishing a workout routine. Taking advantage of an insurer that offers these programs could save you big money.

2. Understand what’s covered by insurance and what’s not

Many times, the amount of a charge on a medical bill is totally dependent on how it is coded.

“It’s very tricky,” says Dr. Pat Ketsche, Associate Professor of Health Administration at Georgia State University. She spoke with Clark and encouraged people to visit the website ChoosingWisely.org to find out what is and isn’t included in a doctor’s visit.

“Sometimes, physicians for example might say, ‘I think you need an EKG,’ but an EKG may not necessarily be covered as part of a wellness visit,’ she said.

3. Get a second opinion

According to money expert Clark Howard, it might be well worth it to see a different doctor if you’re facing a procedure that’s going to cost you a lot of money.

“No matter how smart doctors are, and no matter how well-educated, there are different opinions about the best way to treat what ails you,” he says. “When you’re told you need something very invasive, very expensive, go get a second opinion.”

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4. Use telemedicine

A relatively new approach to medical care is something called “telemedicine,” where a doctor sees patients remotely. Not only is it cheaper, it’s more convenient too!

Though some insurers are offering telemedicine in tandem with traditional medical care, companies that offer telemedicine are sprouting up that specifically offer access to a doctor by phone appointment or by the click of a mouse. Services to the general consumer like Call a Doctor Plus cost around $20 a month, while MD Live offers a per-session visit starting at $75, depending on your insurance. In some cases however, it may be best to see a doctor in person.

5. Consider medical tourism

Medical tourism is where someone travels to a different country for surgery or other medical care. It’s become an alternative option for those needing surgery who want to pay much less — as much as 75% less. But, you’ll definitely have to decide if medical tourism is right for you.

6. Pay cash

It may sound, crazy but it’s true: Sometimes the cash price of a medical procedure will be less than using your insurance. Why? The doctor won’t have to worry about the money becoming uncollectible later. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Patients who pay up front in cash often get better deals than their insurance plans have negotiated for them.” The key here is you have to become your own best advocate and negotiate. See what the doctor or hospital can do for you if you ask for the cash price.

Read more: Why you may want to pay cash for that medical procedure

7. Hire a medical billing advocate

Hospital bills are almost never accurate. In some cases, it might make sense to hire a medical billing advocate that can help you lower your bills if you think you are being overcharged.

According to the The Commonwealth Fund, nearly 80 million Americans have problems with medical bills or debt.

If you’ve exhausted all your options when it comes to fighting a medical bill you don’t believe you owe, someone could help you to recoup some of your money or reduce your bills. The Patient Advocate Foundation offers free assistance and can help you find a medical billing advocate. Though a medical billing advocate may charge a small fee, the money they’ll save you will be well worth it.

8. Use low-cost options to buy prescriptions

There has been an increase in the price of prescription drugs over the past several years. In order to save, you’ve got to know where to look!

Most of the time, people can take a “biosimilar” of a particular medication and be just fine. This is a drug that’s more affordable than the more well-known brands but the chemical composition is the same. A biosimilar can be as much as 1/20 the cost of its counterpart!

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Also, you can print out your pharmacy’s discount prescription list and take it with you to the doctor. Then, ask your doctor to write you a prescription from the list.

Another way to save on prescriptions is to check out alternative options such as reputable online websites or apps. But, you’ll want to be very careful when shopping online. You might have to shop around a little depending on the prescriptions you need, since different prescriptions will probably be different prices at different pharmacies or retailers. Some people have had great success with GoodRx or RetailMeNot RxSaver. And keep in mind, you can always ask the pharmacist you use if there is any discount or if it is the lowest price they can offer you.

9. Need glasses? Check low-cost online retailers

Clark is a big fan of Zenni Optical, where you can find glasses starting at around $12 per pair, plus shipping. But some other companies where you can get prescription eyeglasses at a great price include EyeBuyDirect.com and 39DollarGlasses.com.

If you buy glasses online, keep in mind you’ll need to have your eye prescription and your P.D., or pupillary distance. Some doctors will have this written on your prescription, but in case you don’t have it, this is Goggles4u’s guide to calculating your pupillary distance. And, if your eye doctor give you a hard time about giving you a copy of your prescription, check out the laws regarding your eye prescription.

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