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The Top 10 Ways to Lower Your Health Care Costs

Aug 17, 2007
If your medical expenses are increasing, you'll want to know how to lower them and keep them low. Here are 10 easy ways to reduce your health care costs.

1. Maintain a health lifestyle - it sounds basic, but it really works. If you take advantage of available wellness programs, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, stop smoking, and have regular checkups, you can greatly reduce your medical expenses.

2. Take advantage of free health screenings -if your health insurance doesn't provide adequate health screenings, or if you don't have any health insurance coverage at all, look into free health screenings. Local clinics and hospitals often provide a variety of screenings, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and mammograms.

3. Compare your health insurance options - you'll need to get your own coverage if you don't have employer-sponsored health insurance. Shop around. Because premiums vary widely, you'll probably save money if you get quotes from several companies. Evaluate each plan's coverage and features, taking into account exclusions, limitations, and the freedom to choose health-care providers. Also find out how much you'll end up paying out of pocket in the form of co-payments, coinsurance, and deductibles, because even relatively small amounts of money can really add up if you make frequent visits to your doctor.

4. Reduce the costs of your prescription drugs - if you take prescription drugs regularly, you know they can eat up a large portion of your budget. To save money, order your prescriptions though the mail by using a traditional or online pharmacy. If you belong to a prescription drug plan through your health insurance plan, you may be able to get a three-month supply of your prescription drug through the mail for the same price you would pay for a one-month supply at your neighborhood pharmacy. You can also ask your pharmacist or doctor to recommend a less-expensive generic drug whenever possible.

5. Always check your medical bills for errors - taking a few minutes to go over the charges can save you money in the long run. Check to make sure that the bill accurately reflects the procedures you have undergone and takes into account any applicable insurance coverage you may have. Some errors, such as wrong computer codes, are common, and you may be billed for health care you never received. Contact the appropriate billing office if you think you've found a mistake. If you've received an explanation of benefits from your insurance company that you believe is wrong, ask the company to review your claim.

6. Keep track of your medical expenses - at tax time, you may be able to deduct certain medical expenses if you itemize, and your total medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. Allowable medical expenses include everything from health-care services to medical aids such as eyeglasses and hearing aids. Keep track of these expenses during the year.

7. Consider joining your spouse's health plan - review both your coverage and your spouse's coverage to see if it makes sense for either of you to join the other's plan. Keep in mind that most plans allow you to add a spouse to your plan within a certain time period after you get married. Otherwise, you may have to wait for the plans' annual open enrollment period.

8. Negotiate a discount with your healthcare provider -you can sometimes negotiate to lower your medical bills. While it may not always work, it doesn't hurt to ask your doctor, hospital, or pharmacy if they're willing to come down in price. Before you begin to negotiate, do a little research to find out what other healthcare providers in your area are charging. You can also ask your healthcare provider if they'll lower their price if you pay in cash up front.

9. Contribute to a flexible spending account - check to see if your employer offers a flexible spending plan that will allow you to put pretax dollars in an account. If so, consider participating. You will be reimbursed for your out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as prescription drugs, dental care, and co-payments. Because flexible spending contributions are taken out of your pay before federal and state taxes are calculated, you get to use pretax dollars to pay your medical bills.

10. Understand your health insurance benefits - your health insurance may cover more than you think. Many insurance companies now provide services that are designed to help you stay safe and healthy. For example, you may receive discounts on vitamins, alternative medicines, health club memberships, or bike helmets. You may also be surprised at the range of coverage your health plan offers. For instance, it may cover dental care for young children, chiropractic care, and acupuncture. Read your plan membership materials to find out what products and services are available through your health plan before you pay for them on your own.

Staying healthy is the best way to reduce your health care costs. Getting a quality health insurance policy and understanding its benefits will also go a long way to keeping your medical bills as low as possible.
About the Author
Joan Yankowitz publishes the popular consumer and business Kwik eGuides .
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