Healthcare is overwhelming. And while we’ve attempted to break down the complexities for you in our 5 prior Understanding Your Insurance installments, it’s now time to cut to the chase around reducing costs. Here we provide 5 things you can do to lower you overall healthcare costs.
One of the best ways to avoid large healthcare bills is to maintain one’s health and wellness. That means you need to make your annual physical, and any preventative screenings, a priority. As we’ve explained in a prior post, oftentimes wellness visits and screenings are covered through your insurance plan. Make sure to consult with your healthcare plan to see exactly which preventative screenings are covered.
Potential savings: sort of priceless considering you are taking care of yourself and staying on top of your health.
In our February Understanding Your Insurance installment, we discussed what it means to be seen by a physician who is in our out of your healthcare’s network of doctors. Remaining “in-network” can drastically reduce your overall healthcare expenditures. It is our recommendation to never accept an appointment with a physician or practice prior to checking to see if they are in your insurance network. If seeing an out-of-network physician is unavoidable, make sure to contact your insurance plan to fully understand the cost implications around all potential visits.
Potential savings: hundreds to thousands depending upon physicians seen and healthcare required.
Did you know that the same prescription could cost you less if you just shopped around to other pharmacies? Most of us don’t bother and simply provide our physicians with the information of the pharmacy that is located nearest to our home or office, but it may behoove you to rethink that convenience. When the price of EpiPens increased so dramatically this last year, many learned the benefits of shopping around the price of this live saving drug. GoodRx is both a website and an app that helps you do just that. Check it out the next time you need to fill a costly prescription or even one that needs to be filled regularly. In addition, always ask if your prescription comes in generic form. That too, can save you money.
Potential savings: hundreds depending upon the prescriptions you fill annually.
Staying out of the Emergency Room
Obviously, there are times where visits to the emergency room are a must. They are:
- Dull ache in chest and unusually short of breath
- Abdominal pain to the point of doubling over
- A hard hit to the head, especially if knocked out
- A cut that won’t stop bleeding
- Extreme headache
We will be doing a piece on Free Standing Emergency Rooms soon, but beware of the convenience these offer. They usually come at a high cost. Also, be sure that the ER you visit is in-network. Before you even need emergency care, it’s a good idea to call your insurance provider and ask them which area hospitals accept your insurance. Also, ensure you fully understand your emergency care copays and co-insurance.
There is a difference between emergency care and urgent care, even though it may be very little. If you fall anywhere else than the list above in terms of your symptoms, a visit with your PCP (Primary Care Physician) is your best bet. However, if it is after office hours, an urgent care visit may also be a good idea.
Potential savings: hundreds to thousands as a PCP or an urgent care visit will cost several hundred dollars vs. an ER visit which may run in the thousands for the same services.
Ask your Doctor Questions
Many of us have very limited medical knowledge, so when our doctor recommends lab work or testing, we blindly agree. However, it’s important for every patient to know they are in charge of their healthcare decisions. In the end, the patient has the ultimate say. In addition, only you know your financial budget. If your physician does recommend tests or lab work, do your homework and call your insurance company to find out exactly how much it will cost. Ask your doctor if there are any alternatives. This goes for medications as well. Ask if you can take the generic. Your physician should absolutely have your best interests at heart. They should be sensitive to your financial situation and be willing to work with you to find the best options for you both medically and financially.
Potential savings: hundreds.
Hopefully, this helps you make more informed healthcare choices as you navigate this ever changing insurance world. Next month we will further explore Free Standing ERs vs Hospital ERs vs Urgent Care.