Cool Ideas

Cut Healthcare Costs

No matter your political view, it’s likely we all can agree that our nation’s healthcare has plenty of room for improvement—starting with the cost. However, changes like this take a great deal of time, so what’s the average American supposed to do in the meantime? With ever-rising premiums, deductibles, and more, the very expense of getting sick is often more daunting than the diagnosis itself. Try following a few of these helpful tips to keep your budget and health ahead of the game.

  1. Preventative Care: The cheapest thing you can do is remain healthy, so it’s important you take all the right measures to maintain your overall good health. This means eating right, getting plenty of exercise, and going for annual well visits.
  2. Shop for the Best Plan: Don’t just choose the one with the lowest monthly premium, or the one you used before. Benefits can, and often do, change every year, as well as your family needs. It’s important to reevaluate your needs every year before you start a new plan. Start by making a list of your family’s average doctor visits, prescriptions, dental cleanings, and other services. Compare what you would pay over an entire year for all these items within each plan, including monthly premiums and deductibles.
  3. Always Stay Covered: If you or whoever carries your insurance is switching jobs and has a wait period before the new insurance kicks in, see if the previous employer is able to extend the policy. Most companies are required to do so under the COBRA law, but not all. If it’s not possible to extend your coverage, then buy a short-term plan. It’s never a good idea to gamble that nothing will happen, however short of a time period it is that you go uncovered.
  4. Take Advantage of the Extras: Your health plan may offer services you don’t know about, such as discounts on gym memberships, massage treatments, and weight-loss programs.
  5. Opt for Flex Spending: If your employer offers flex spending, we strongly urge you to take advantage. Flex spending accounts allow you to set aside money for medical expenses, tax free—which means automatic savings. If you’re worried about putting in more money than you need and losing it, estimate how much you think you’ll need for yearly healthcare costs and set aside 20 percent less. If you still have leftover money toward the end of the year, you can use FSA money towards contact lenses, dental cleanings, and over the counter medicines.
  6. Read Your Bills Carefully: As many as half of all doctor and hospital bills contain mistakes, which could end up costing you money. Common errors include using an incorrect billing code, mistakes in an account number, or claims with incomplete information. All these things could cause your insurance to pay less, or completely reject your claim. Be sure to read your benefits book carefully, and make sure your plan is covering all that it should.
  7. Get Creative: You can work your plan so it works best for you. For example, if you need extensive dental services, ask your dentist about starting the work in December and finishing it in January. Depending on your dental plan benefits, you may get better coverage by splitting the cost between the two plan years.
  8. Ask for Prescription Samples: Your doctor gets lots of freebies, so if you’re being seen for something like pink eye, he may even be able to cover your entire treatment without having to pay to fill a prescription.
  9. Know Your Prescriptions: Some prescription brands cost more than others. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fill it at the pharmacy, and sometimes it’s cheaper to order it through your insurance. Get an idea of how much everything costs, and shop around for the best brand and option. Name brands often offer coupons, so it may actually be cheaper to get a name brand with a coupon than a generic brand with no coupon.
  10. Talk to Your Doctor: It’s okay to tell your doctor or dentist you are on a budget. He may be able to suggest less costly treatment or even agree to lower fees. It’s a little known secret that doctor fees can be negotiable!