It has become vital for consumers today to heed attention to their medical treatment as they would with other household purchases, regarding quality and what they pay for it.
Unfortunately, our present healthcare system is so complex that when it comes to medical
care, we are made to believe that things cost as projected by the medical institutions. As a result, health inequality continues to be one of the biggest struggles this country is facing.
Health experts and savvy consumers have found ways and means to access quality healthcare for much less money, provided one knows where to look and what to ask for. So here is a rundown of a few tips that can shave off extra dollars from your subsequent medical treatment bill.
1. Download An App
Thanks to telemedicine, you can pull out a smartphone, download an app and arrange an online consultation with a physician, just like a house call by your family doctor. Not only are there significant savings by avoiding those middle-of-the-night emergency visits by your doc, but as a bonus, you don’t have to leave the house, especially when you are under the weather.
Additionally, the recent onslaught of new online therapy sites has made it possible to access quality mental health care, regardless of your working hours, having a busy family, living in a remote area, or even lacking insurance.
According to one study, the average cost of an appointment with a virtual doctor comes to $40-$50, whereas the same appointment in a traditional office would be three to four times higher.
2. Know Your Insurance Plan
Your insurance plan will dictate what you have to shell out for your medical expenses. So make sure you know what your current policy covers to get the maximum benefit from the insurance plan.
This means you need to take out time to understand:
- What are your co-pay and coinsurance costs?
- How large are the deductibles?
- Which hospitals are in your network?
- The drug formulary linked with your plan
If your current plan doesn’t cater to your healthcare needs, look for other more suitable options.
3. Choose In-Network Care Providers
Suppose you have a preferred provider option, or PPO, in your health insurance plan. Your insurer will typically pay most of the medical cost, up to 70-80% (minus your co-pay), when you use a doctor or hospital on their list.
However, if you use treatment from an institution or physician outside the preferred network, you will have to pay a larger amount of the bill as these services are charged at higher rates by them, unlike the network providers who have a contract with your health plan.
4. Use Healthcare Accounts Like FSA Or HSA
Out-of-pocket expenses continue to grow with changes in health insurance. By putting aside money in special savings accounts for your health care services, not only do you save for any future treatment but pay little or no taxes on the funds in the account.
A Health Saving Account (HSA) is a bank account in which you, and sometimes employers, contribute an amount from year to year for any period. HSA trustees usually hold this money for you, which you can withdraw after 65 years of age for non-medical reasons without any penalty.
Similarly, Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA) is a pre-tax savings account offered by an employer for any health plan. An FSA allows your employer to put aside a part of your pre-tax salary into an account. All money used for medical treatment from this account is tax-free, and once opened, you can use the account even if there are no funds in it.
5. Shop Around
Medical care charges vary from one provider to another. In other words, you can find a doctor in the same area and network charging different fees, which is why shopping around is essential. In addition, many people don’t realize one procedure may be cheaper by thousands of dollars if done in one facility than another. It is, therefore, worth asking your doctor if care would cost less at one facility than at another.
The website of your insurance provider or other organizations readily provides information on fees charged by different doctors with the cost estimator tool. If you find charges for mild treatment are the same but cost less, choose the cheaper option, as this will make a significant difference if you have a co-pay or have to pay out-of-pocket expenses.
6. Save On Prescriptions
Free services, such as pharmacy saving cards, offer great discounts on drug prices in pharmacy stores. For example, you can download programs like SingleCare to find the lowest prices on your prescription in the drug stores in your area and avail of instant savings by showing your card. In addition, pharmacies like Walmart and Walgreens provide prescription savings programs for every customer.
Healthcare providers will never prescribe the cheapest treatment available but will only prescribe drugs they are familiar with. So it is always advisable to ask your pharmacist if equally effective generic alternatives are available for your prescription.
To save even more money, you can switch to mail-order pharmacies offering bulk prescription medicine at a discounted price. In addition, many mail-order pharmacies work with SingleCare, resulting in even more savings.
7. Check Your Bills
You should take some basic steps whenever you receive a medical bill, large or small. First, ensure that you get an itemized receipt for everything, with each product clearly listed and its costs are broken down in detail.
Cross-examine these procedures with costs with your insurance plan to see if there are no discrepancies. If you find any, call up your insurance provider and appeal. You can even call the doctor that billed you and ask. Save all the proofs of purchase and receipts to make your appeals a success as easy as possible.
8. Check For Free Resources
Medical treatment is never free-someone always has to pay for it. That said, community clinics offer specific services free or on a sliding scale. Also, your insurance coverage may include a free annual checkup with no co-pay required. You can take advantage of this if in your plan.
Most people with diabetes struggle to pay for treatment as insulin prices continue to rise. Pharmacy manufacturers in America, for example, have developed programs to provide free or discounted insulin.
Many state departments and health care centers provide affordable vaccines to uninsured or under-insured adults. In addition, some prominent manufacturers like Merck and Pfizer offer payment assistance programs for children and adults.
The above methods are wonderful ways to save on day-to-day health care treatment costs, despite your insurance level. There is no reason to pay more than necessary for your medical treatment, providing you stay informed and do research, especially if you need regular health checkups.