It’s no secret that healthcare costs are rising. In fact, last year they rose the most they have in over three decades. (Overwhelming, we know.) However, healthcare costs are not completely out of your control.
Before you gather your verbal pitchforks in protest, we aren’t suggesting magical reductions, but rather tips on how to pad your wallet with a little cost-savings cash. Here are six ways you can manage your personal healthcare expenses:
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
We’ve heard it all before — eat more vegetables, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and aim for eight hours of sleep a night. You may roll your eyes at advice that seems come straight from Dr. Oz himself, but healthy living really does play a part in preventive healthcare. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle contributes to overall wellness, which means less sickness for you and fewer costly doctor visits. Certain health plans also cover preventive healthcare services, like cancer screenings and annual physician visits, so make sure you’re taking advantage of those you qualify for.
Stay In-Network and Avoid Surprises
In-network rates for healthcare are typically much lower than if you were to use an out-of-network doctor or facility. What does that mean? Basically your healthcare plan only covers certain physicians, hospitals, and care centers. There are ways to make sure you’re in the right place with the right person — usually through your healthcare provider’s website or by confirming with your doctor. But, beware! Sometimes in-network hospitals employ out-of-network doctors and you could be hit with a big bill later on, so pay attention!
Make a Plan and Prepare for Costs
No one can anticipate every emergency or illness that life may throw your way — but you can anticipate the costs through financial preparedness. For instance, if you have high deductible insurance, a health savings account is a way to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And if you’re lucky enough to foresee what’s coming — like a scheduled knee surgery or cavity filling, make sure you set money aside in savings to pay for the operation and research cost-effective options (like in-network care or payment plans.) Scheduling procedures over the course of the year will also help spread out costs.
This is simple — buy generic prescriptions if and when you can. Generic drugs have the same active ingredient as their name-brand counterparts and are typically cheaper (whether you’re paying for them with a health insurance copay or out-of-pocket.) Not all drugs have a generic form, but if they do, consider the more fiscally prudent option.
Choose Your Care Setting Wisely
It really does matter where you go. For example, if you have a minor skin-related problem, you may want to see your regular physician before you schedule an appointment with the dermatologist. Why? Because specialist visits typically cost more than primary care. Also, unless it truly is an emergency (like that time you cut the tip of your finger off chopping onions), you may want to opt out of visiting the ER for routine care. An average ER visit can set you back $1,200. Urgent care centers are better places to go for sore throats and nasty ear infections. Lastly, have you heard of telemedicine? If you haven’t, it’s basically a virtual house call and typically cheaper than an office visit. (So 21st Century!)
It may be intimidating to ask your doctor about ways to cut costs, but you’ll never know until you try. While doctors and other medical professionals can’t always control the bill you receive in the mailbox, they may be able to offer alternative treatment options, a cheaper generic drug, or other financial assistance options — so speak up!
Another way to drive down healthcare costs? Fighting back against state-based mandates. These pieces of legislation drive up health insurance premiums for everyone — even your doctor. Ready to hop on board? Join us.