Six Ways to Shop & Save on Health Care Costs

Already, 57 percent of American household budgets are seriously impacted by health care costs, and the situation is only getting worse. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, health care costs are expected to rise by 5.8 percent each year until 2022.

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Question: How much do health care costs impact your household budget?

Soaring costs are not only detrimental to one’s financial wellbeing. They can have dire consequences on a person’s health, as well. One-third of Americans report putting off or delaying medical care because of the cost.

But there’s no reason to sacrifice your health to save your wealth. You can find affordable, cost-effective care with some consumer savvy. Below are six tips to help you reduce the cost of your medical.

1. Shop Around

Over two-thirds of people in a recent Vitals Index survey said they didn’t research the price of medical services. That mistake could cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Prices for tests and procedures vary wildly from one medical facility to the next, often with no relation to quality.

Because health plans control health costs through negotiated rates with providers, you’ll want to use the cost tools available on your health plan’s website. Amazingly, only 2 percent of members use them!

2. Think Outside the Hospital 

It’s a pretty decent bet that there’s a retail clinic or urgent care facility near where you live that you can use in lieu of the emergency room. It won’t cost you as much, and many such facilities offer extended hours.

Don’t wait for the next time an emergency occurs – do an Internet search now to find suitable locations and note their hours of operation.

3. Pay Out-of-Pocket For Prescriptions

That’s right: You could save on your prescriptions by paying cash. There are a number of reasons for this, including the rise of cheaper generic medications, and the fact that pharmacies can set whatever price they want. Also, you may find yourself in this situation: a common prescription, not on the formulary at your insurance plan, can be had with, say, a $70 co-pay — while you can buy it for cash for $35.

Always ask.

4. Get Diagnosed Via SmartPhone

Smartphones have impacted our everyday lives. But nowhere is the promise greater than in health care. Apps can help people stay on track with their health goals or even adhere to prescriptions. And new diagnostic apps can spot ear infections and irregular health rhythms.

In addition, smartphones are ushering in telehealth. For less than $40, you can consult a doctor and get a prescription from the convenience of your home –less than most co-pays.

5. Scan Bills for Errors

It’s easy to say “review your bills for errors,” but when you get right down to it, the process can seem impossible. Medical bills are filled with codes and data that are hard for the layperson to decipher, and the process can easily lead to frustration.

Don’t give in. Review your bill to the best of your ability and if you notice any obvious errors, question them. If you don’t find a satisfying resolution, visit the website Medical Billing Advocates of America where a representative can review your bills for mistakes.

6.  Improve Your Health

One of the simplest ways to decrease your medical costs is to improve your health. Join a gym or create a home workout program and adjust your diet to include more fresh fruits and vegetables. Still smoking cigarettes? Buy a patch or join a support group and quit.

Also, many health plans now pay for preventive care visits. Getting regular exams, screenings and immunizations can save you money in the long run by finding problems early or preventing them altogether.