If you’re like most Americans, you’re paying more for health care than you’d like. Even with health insurance, healthcare costs can be expensive. Between the doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, co-pays, and premiums, the amount of money you spend on healthcare every year really adds up. Even though you’re legally required to pay your pre-determined co-pays, there are still a ton of ways that you can save money on healthcare. Here are six tips that will help you get the most value for your dollar:
See “In-Network” Providers
Seeing a doctor or healthcare provider outside of your insurance network is more expensive than it is to use a doctor within your network. One of the easiest ways to save money is to stay within your insurance provider’s network. If your doctor refers you to a specialist, check to see if that specialist is in-network. You can check to see if a doctor is in your network by looking on your insurance provider’s website or by calling your insurance company directly.
Find ways to save on prescriptions
If your doctor prescribes a medication, check to see if there’s a generic alternative. Many health insurance plans charge more if you use a name brand drug versus the generic. Not only is the list price lower, but the coinsurance rates are often lower as well. You can also ask to see if there’s something over the counter you can take, such as a vitamin supplement.
Look for no-fee preventative care
You may be afraid to visit the doctor on a regular basis because you’re worried that it will cost too much money. However, one of the best ways to avoid high medical costs is to get regular exams, screenings and immunizations. Most health insurance plans pay for preventative care visits, which can include diabetes and cholesterol tests, mammograms, colonoscopies, flu shots, well-baby and well-child visits, and more. You’ll save money in the long run by catching problems early or by preventing them altogether.
Consider contributing to a flexible spending account
Money in a flexible spending account escapes both federal and Social Security taxes, and in many cases, state and local income taxes too. When you put money into a flexible spending account, you use this tax-free money to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as doctor’s visits and prescriptions throughout the year. This has become more valuable as people face higher deductibles. If you receive health insurance through your employer, check to see whether your plan allows you to set up a flexible spending account. If so, you’ll be able to opt-in for a flexible spending account during open enrollment, and the money you put into your flexible spending account will come out of your pre-taxed income.
Find lower-cost after hours services
The average cost of an emergency room visit is around $1,200.00. If you have an insurance policy with a high deductible, you may pay even more. Visiting urgent care instead of the emergency room can save you hundreds of dollars. A study by the Annals of Internal Medicine found that the average cost of urgent care for three common illnesses – middle ear infection, pharyngitis, and urinary tract infection – was $155. If your primary care physician offers a walk-in clinic, you may be able to visit after hours. Walk-in clinics, if operated by your primary care physician, will usually cost the same as a visit to your physician.
Access a doctor over the phone
If urgent care or a walk-in clinic isn’t available and you need after hours medical service, consider using a telehealth provider, such as Teladoc. When you use a telehealth provider, you have access to U.S. board-certified doctors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Telehealth providers are able to resolve most of your medical issues via phone or online video consultants, and they’re also able to prescribe prescriptions. Additionally, these services cost far less than urgent care or ER visits for non-emergency medical care.