11 Ways to Save Money on Healthcare
Save Money, Stay Healthy
Doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, co-pays, premiums—the amount of money you spend on healthcare every year can feel endless. Luckily, a little comparison shopping and smart detective work can net significant savings. As a savvy consumer, it’s important to look out for your best interests. Here are 11 ways to keep a little more cash in your pocket.
Ask About Generics
If your doctor prescribes a drug, ask if there’s a suitable generic alternative. “There are a lot of plans that will charge a significantly greater co-pay if you use a name brand drug versus a generic,” says Martin Rosen, author of The Healthcare Survival Guide. “Taking the generic can be a big, big savings.” You may also want to ask if you can take something over-the-counter instead—especially if it’s a vitamin supplement (such as a prenatal vitamin or iron pill) or medication for a gastrointestinal problem.
Listen to Your Doc
“Some 20 percent of people never fill a prescription they get from their doctor. Half of them don’t take it correctly, and half don’t refill it,” says Larry Boress, president of the Midwest Business Group on Health. Failure to follow your doctor’s orders could land you right back in the waiting room, racking up yet another medical bill.
You may not think twice about filling your prescriptions at the pharmacy down the street, but maybe you should. Call around to see what other pharmacies are charging for the same drug, and you may realize some significant savings. “It’s definitely worth your while,” Boress says. And don’t forget about the big box stores, such as Target and Wal-Mart, which offer low prices on generic prescriptions.
Use a Flexible Spending Account
A flexible spending account (FSA) allows you to put aside pretax dollars that you can use toward medical expenses throughout the year. The pretax deduction lowers your taxable income, reducing the amount you'll owe on April 15. If your employer offers an FSA and your healthcare costs are fairly predictable, you should take advantage of it. Just remember that you’ll forfeit any money you don’t use by the end of the year, so it doesn’t pay to get overeager.
Compare Costs for Lab Tests
So your doctor recommended an MRI or a lab test? Before you trek down to the facility he or she suggested, call a few other places to see what they would charge you for the procedure. “There is a wide variation of pricing for the same procedure across the country and even within a given zip code,” Rosen says. “Depending on where the service is done, it could be significantly less expensive.”
Consider a High-Deductible Plan
A high-deductible health plan requires you to pay a higher out-of-pocket deductible than other plans before your insurance kicks in. However, monthly premiums are usually much lower than traditional health plans, and if you only see your doctor once or twice a year, you may save money in the end with this option. It’s worth your time to do the math before you cross it off your list. Just make sure you have the cash on hand to cover the deductible if you do end up needing significant care.
Try Mail-Order Medications
If you take prescription drugs on a regular basis (such as birth control or cholesterol drugs), find out if your health insurance offers a mail-order option. You’ll typically receive a 90-day supply for much less than you’d pay at the pharmacy.
Read Your Bills
According to the Medical Billing Advocates of America (MBAA), roughly eight out of 10 medical bills contain errors. And doctors’ offices and labs aren’t exempt from making mistakes. It’s in your best interest to eyeball your paperwork before writing a check. Don’t be afraid to call your doctor or the hospital billing department to clarify a charge, and be persistent.
Ask for a Discount
“Some 61 percent of people who went to a doctor and asked for a discount actually got something,” Rosen says. “That’s a remarkable number.” If you’ve been a loyal patient and your finances are tight, don’t be afraid to ask if your doctor or healthcare provider can cut you a break on a visit or a procedure cost. You might be surprised.
Visit a Drug Manufacturer’s Website
If you’re taking a brand name drug regularly, check the drugmaker’s website to see if they offer a coupon or discount card that will reduce how much you have to pay. “It’s amazing how many manufacturers do that now,” Boress says.
One of the best ways to stay out of the doctor’s office (and keep the co-pays in your wallet) is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “It doesn’t matter what age you are,” Boress says. “If you’re walking every day and eating smaller portions, you’ll tend to stay healthy.” Go ahead—go outside for a quick stroll. You’ll feel better for it, and it could save you money on healthcare.
For more ways to improve the quality of your healthcare, visit Healthline’s Guide to Consumer Healthcare. You can learn how to make sense of your health insurance options, find out what the Affordable Care Act really means for your family, and discover how to choose a doctor that’s right for you.