To anyone who just completed “year end enrollment” in their employer’s health insurance plan, and anyone who’s paying for their own medical insurance, it’s clear that costs are only going up. According to the National Coalition on Health Care, Americans spend $6,700 per person annually on health care.
So it makes sense to try to cut costs wherever you can without putting your health at risk. Here are 10 ways to reduce your medical costs while keeping yourself healthy.
At the Doctor’s Office
- Ask for generic drugs. Generic drugs are cheaper than name brands. Busy doctors forget about alternatives, so don’t hesitate to ask. Check out Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s list of top prescription drugs and their generic equivalents. For pain medicine, find out if there’s an over-the-counter instead.
- Avoid unnecessary tests and visits. If you move or change doctors, take copies of test results with you. Always talk to your doctor first, but some follow-up visits and tests are unnecessary-like annual EKGs. Call instead.
- Barter for services. You could trade plumbing, legal advice, or tax preparation, etc. in exchange for medical services. A hospital in Brooklyn has a program that barters for medical care. Craigslist also has ads offering bartered medical services.
- Get free samples. Doctors, dentists, and optometrists get tons of samples from manufacturers hoping to increase brand awareness. Ask your doctor for some instead of paying for prescriptions.
- Negotiate. Some hospitals waive or reduce certain fees. Others will reduce the bill in exchange for cash upfront. Be sure you ask for explanations of costs if you don’t understand them. You wouldn’t overpay for something at Target, so don’t do it at the doctor’s office.
- Outsource common tests. Independent labs can screen for cancer, run drug tests, and analyze blood and urine. Some even offer secure online access to your medical information. Check out myMedLab, PrivateMD, and PrivateLabTesting.
- Personal Bills Tracking You can deduct expenses if the itemized total is more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. This includes expenses from acupuncture, artificial teeth, hearing aids, eye surgery, psychiatric care, and even weight-loss programs. Read the IRS’s Publication 502 for more information on tax breaks and which medical expenses are deductible.
You can use Mint.com to easily for your personal bills tracking and medical expenses incurred at all your health care providers, pharmacies, online services, etc, across all the accounts you have added to Mint.com. Mint automatically categorizes some expenses as Medical, and you can recategorize and/or label transactions to get an full and accurate picture of your total spending and to see if you qualify for tax breaks.
In the Future
- Review your insurance plan. Meet with a professional if necessary. Don’t focus solely on the monthly premium-consider the total cost, including out-of-pocket expenses. If you can afford a higher deductible, lowering premiums will offer immediate savings. A younger person in good health might consider switching to a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs allow you to pay for current health expenses while saving for future medical expenses, tax-free.
- Live a healthier lifestyle. Ok, we had to say it. Fulfill your new year’s resolutions to exercise more, eliminate stress, stop smoking, get plenty of sleep, get regular check-ups, drink 8 glasses of water per day, avoid red meat, and eat lots of organic fruits, vegetables and fish. You’ll lower your health care costs, and possibly your life insurance costs. So, it’s a smart financial decision to invest in good health.
Have you found a smart way to save on health care costs? We’d like to hear about it. Comments welcome.