According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over 25 percent of families in the United States are feeling burdened financially from the cost of medical care.
Additionally, one in five U.S. families have problems paying their medical bills, and one in ten have medical bills they cannot pay at all. With health care costs rising faster than annual income, more and more people need to find ways to cut corners on medical-related expenses. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the amount of money your household dedicates to health care each month. Review the following sections to discover ways to uncover significant savings on prescriptions, dental care and doctor visits. Also find out how to best negotiate your medical bills and get discounts on your health insurance premiums.
Several options exist to cut down on the amount of money you spend on prescription medications. GoodRx, RxSaver and various drugstore prescription savings apps can help you find the best current prices on medicines you take every day. Simply download the app to your smartphone or tablet, enter your location information and the name of your medication. The app will then show you a selection of local pharmacies and their current price for that drug. It will also show any coupons or other discounts that further lower the price.
Many apps also come with a prescription discount card to show at the pharmacy. These discount cards are also available from organizations such as AARP and certain websites. These cards allow you to take advantage of discounts they have negotiated with drug manufacturers. Most prescription discount cards are free and can save you anywhere from two to 80 percent off the retail cost of prescription drugs.
Another option for prescription savings is to always choose generic drugs when possible. Although some doctors still hold a preference for brand name drugs, many will happily write a prescription for a generic alternative. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires generics to have exactly the same active ingredients as the brand name medication. Nearly 80 percent of all prescription drugs have a generic equivalent.
Many health insurance plans, including Medicare, do not include coverage for dental care. Because bacteria surrounding the gums can enter the bloodstream and cause overall health problems, neglecting dental care is unwise. If you do not have dental coverage through your employer’s health insurance plan, consider buying your own dental insurance or enrolling in a dental discount plan. Using a dentist on a dental plan network opens access to discounts not available otherwise.
Even if you cannot afford a dental plan, try to save up for at least one professional cleaning per year. Note that most dentists will give a discount to cash-paying customers. Consider visiting a local dental school for free or low-cost dental cleanings and procedures. Between professional cleanings, maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily.
Predicted by some to be the next great wave in healthcare, paying for a remote medical consultation can provide the healthcare you need without the expense of an urgent care or ER visit. MD Live and Call a Doctor Plus are two companies that can connect you with a licensed, board-certified doctor within minutes. Although virtual doctor visits cannot be used for every condition, they can be an inexpensive yet effective way of treating colds, flu, urinary tract infections, pink eye and gastrointestinal viruses. You can choose to have your consultation via phone or video call, and most companies offer a choice of monthly membership plans or paying a flat rate for each virtual doctor visit.
You are never stuck paying full price for medical procedures. It’s possible to score real savings by negotiating your medical bills up-front or after you receive services. Don’t be afraid to visit another doctor for a second opinion, especially for expensive or invasive procedures. Ask both physicians for an itemized statement of costs and you might be surprised to learn that one is significantly cheaper than the other. You can also ask in advance for any available discounts. If you have some money in savings, your doctor may offer a discount in exchange for a cash payment.
If you need help to pay for an expensive medical procedure, find out how to apply for your hospital’s financial aid program. Although they rarely advertise it, nearly all hospitals have financial assistance programs in place for qualifying patients. Be sure to keep notes of all treatments, procedures and medications you receive in the hospital and compare these notes to an itemized bill after discharge.
If you notice discrepancies or overcharges on your bill, bring them to the billing department’s attention. If they fail to correct it or you’re struggling to pay an existing bill, consider hiring a patient advocate to negotiate on your behalf. Usually, your advocate can get the hospital or doctors to agree to an affordable payment plan.
Health insurance companies and employers are increasingly offering discounts and other incentives to employees who participate in wellness programs. Because smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption and a lack of exercise contribute to heart disease and other expensive illnesses, wellness programs benefit corporations and individuals alike.
To obtain wellness-related discounts and rewards, participants must first take a health assessment provided by the insurer. Many assessments are done online, while others must be obtained in person at a doctor’s office. After the assessment, you will learn about your personal health risks and receive recommendations for improvement, which may include enrolling in a wellness program. Focusing on weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation or other conditions, these programs help you set realistic health goals and reward you for meeting them. In addition to receiving lower health insurance premiums, possible incentives include gift cards, free merchandise and cold, hard cash.