Cutting Healthcare Costs

It’s not a secret that health care can be expensive.  Many people pay two and three digit bills for their prescriptions.   A visit to the doctor’s office can hurt the budget.  Glasses cost hundreds of dollars?  How can you cut this cost?

Drugs

If possible, go generic*.  There is no difference between Trazorel and trazadone, aside from the cost.   Wal-mart, Target, and many other stores offer common generic prescriptions for $4-5.   When you are talking to your doctor, ask if there is an drug option that has an available generic.  When you are talking to your pharmacist, ask if there is a generic alternative available.

Get the price match.   The Cub Foods pharmacy near me matches the Target generic drug price, giving us $4 generics for the asking.   This is often an unpublicized deal, so make sure you ask. If your pharmacy will not match nearby prices, consider going elsewhere.

See if there is a 90 day plan.  Many insurance companies sponsor a 90 day prescription plan that gives you a 90 supply of drugs for the 60 costs as long as you are willing to accept the drugs by mail.   For expensive prescriptions, this 33% discount can be a substantial savings.

Physician

Does your clinic offer online consultations with your doctor or nurses?   Some clinics offer a chat or email option to talk to your doctor without requiring a visit that will add fees and copays to your expense sheet.   Most clinics and hospitals have a free nurse line for basic questions, like “When is my baby‘s fever dangerous?”  It’s a great chance to save some money.  I know, from personal experience, that they won’t be shy if they feel you need to come in, but they generally won’t try to convince you to come in if aspirin will fix the problem.

Stay in-network.   Check with your insurance company to make sure the doctor you want to see if in your network and therefore, available at the cheapest out-of-pocket price.  If not, and you really want that doctor, ask your insurance company if they accept nominations for the network and ask your doctor if he’d be interested in being nominated.

Stay home for your cold.  Don’t go to the doctor for every minor problem. The best remedy a doctor can give your for your cold will reduce it to a seven day malady.  On the other hand, if you do nothing, it will go away in about a week.  Why waste the money?   This counts double for the emergency room and urgent care.  Strep throat is not an emergency.  Wait until morning and go to the clinic, paying the lower fees instead of the large ER costs.   Make an appointment for a doctor visit, if possible.  Urgent care is billed the same as a regular visit, but most insurance plans double or triple the copay for urgent care visits.

Cash Flow

A Health Savings Account(HSA) is a pre-tax account to save for qualifying medical expenses similar to a Flexible Savings Account(FSA).  The main differences are that HSAs are only available for people with high-deductible insurance plans and do not have to be spent on medical expenses.  Non-qualifying expenses move from pre-tax to post-tax, meaning you will be charged federal income tax for non-qualifying withdrawals.  FSAs are “use it or lose it” plans.  If you don’t use it, it will go away, usually at the end of the year.  That makes December a great time to stock up on over-the-counter medicines and possibly replace your eyeglasses, as both of those are qualifying expenses.    Find out if you have either option available.   If you use either one, set aside a place to store every imaginable medical receipt, so you can be reimbursed.  Make sure you understand the FSA-eligible expenses.

An Ounce of Prevention

Get routine checkups.  The earlier you find a problem, the more options you have. This goes for everything from cancer screenings to blood tests.  Get a physical every year and know what is happening with your body.  We may be living in the future, but replacement parts are still hard to come by.

Maintain Your Health

It’s cheaper to be healthy.  Eat right, exercise, quit smoking.

I enjoy a good meal.  It’s one of my favorite things.  I won’t cut rich foods out of my diet, so we reduced portions.  Beyond the first few bites, the flavor isn’t nearly as enjoyable or even noticeable.  There’s no more enjoyment for huge servings than small ones.

Get more exercise, even if it’s just a 2o minute walks twice a week parking on the far side of the parking lot, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Vision

Go online.  This one is worth a write-up all by itself.  I have 6 pairs of prescription glasses–all varieties of frames and coatings–that have cost a grand total of about $150.  There is no noticeable difference between my cheapies and the designer alternatives.   While I work on the write-up, the best site to introduce you to the concept of online glasses is GlassyEyes.  Reviews, coupons, and discount likes.  They have step-by-step instructions on turning an intimidating idea into a simple and cheap solution to an expensive problem.

How do you save money on health care?

* There are no generics available on new drugs until the initial patent expires.   This gives the pharmaceutical companies a change to recoup their research and development costs.  Without this patent period, new private drug research would evaporate.   Don’t hate the brand names, but don’t show undue loyalty.

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  • 4 comments

    Comments

    1. Medication can definitely be expensive. I’m lucky that my regular medication is covered, so I only have to pay $35/mo for it instead of something like $165/mo.

    2. I echo the point about buying glasses online! We only discovered it this year – but the savings are amazing!

      My last pair of glasses from an optician cost me over $400. My most recent pair (bought online) were $89!

    3. Good stuff. I have agree 100% on the generics. Some people waste money on name brands because they think there is some benefit. No way!

    4. I work the vision angle all the time. Contacts online are much cheaper than from the doctor or eyecare stores. Easiest way to save alot each year.

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