When living a frugal life, many of us have managed to save money on groceries, utilities, travel, and many other areas, but one thing that may still make us feel out of control and even helpless is the expensive healthcare bill. Unfortunately, the U.S. medical system is ridiculously expensive. We certainly cannot be immune from all diseases, nor be outsiders of the medical system. However, knowing some money-saving tips can always be helpful. The following are 21 ways to save money on medical bills.
1. Ask for a generic version of a prescribed medication
According to FDA, “A generic drug is identical — or bioequivalent — to a brand name drug in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.” Generic drugs are sold at much cheaper prices.
2. Check your insurance formulary to determine your prescription preferences
Insurance formulary is a list of approved prescriptions that an insurance plan covers. Different drugs for treating the same symptom may have a different copayment. Check with the insurer on your portion of payment for different drug options and inform your doctor which prescription is your preference.
3. Get free medicine samples from your doctor
Physicians have samples of medications so you may get free samples that can last for a few days or even longer. However, be aware that the samples are usually for expensive brand drugs. When you keep up the prescription of those drugs, you may end up paying higher prices than going with generic options. You can ask whether you can take the samples until they run out and then switch to the generic for your prescription.
4. Use your warehouse membership to save money on medication
At Sam’s Club, members can save up to 30% of select brand prescriptions. Members can get certain prescriptions without charge. Costco members can enroll in their prescription saving program to save on prescription medications.
Right now Groupon is offering a big discount for Sam’s Club One-Year Membership (up to 74% off). If you have not used Groupon before, sign up for FREE and start saving now.
5. Check out free medications from stores
6. Use GoodRX to find the lowest price for your medications
GoodRX is a free website/app for comparing medication prices in your local area and getting relevant coupons. It collects prices & discounts from more than 60,000 U.S. pharmacies. Using this online resource can ensure you get the cheapest prescription.
7. Check out Pharmaceutical Assistance Program in your state
Many states have pharmaceutical assistance programs that offer help paying drug plan premiums and/or other drug costs for low-income seniors. One needs to meet certain requirements to qualify. Check whether your state has a pharmaceutical assistance program.
8. Consider a cheaper over-the-counter alternative to the prescription
It is possible that some over-the-counter options can treat your symptom as well. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist about the over-the-counter alternative to your prescription. Be aware that over-the-counter is not always cheaper. There is no harm to ask for information before making a decision.
Doctor Visit and Medical Treatment
9. Be well prepared and share your health concerns during a doctor visit
You want to get the most out of your doctor visit. Getting the necessary information ready before your doctor visit will make your visit more productive. Discuss all your health concerns with your doctor so you can get answers you need from your visit.
10. Choose doctors in your insurance network
Doctors, hospitals or health care facilities that are part of your insurance network charge lower prices. Visit the website of your health insurance company and search provider directory on their network. Contact your health care provider’s office to double-check that they accept your insurance.
11. Ask about your options
Ask your doctor whether the recommended tests are all necessary. Let the doctor know about your financial concerns and see the doctor thinks it is OK to skip optional tests.
12. Make use of nurse line of your insurance to get quick free medical advice
Health insurance plan often provides Free nurse lines with 24/7 call-in access. The nurse line helps a patient determine whether self-care, a doctor visit, or emergency medical attention is most appropriate for a medical condition. These nurse lines may save you some unnecessary doctor visits and the related medical cost.
13. Use a walk-in clinic or urgent care facility
When your physician office is closed, if you have a non-emergency medical condition, consider using a walk-in clinic or an urgent care facility, instead of ER which is more expensive.
14. Discuss with your doctor for a discount
If you are uninsured, discuss with your doctor and ask for a discount beforehand. If you are willing to pay cash, you may get an even bigger discount.
15. Use community health centers and/or local health departments
Patients who are uninsured can check whether there are any community health centers (CHCs) available in the local area. Those CHCs are funded by federal grants and provide free or low-cost health care to patients who are uninsured, particularly those with low-income. Check here to find a health center.
Your local (county or city) health department may also provide certain health services for uninsured individuals if you meet their eligibility requirements, such as residence and income level. Many services are free or much cheaper compared to private providers. Check the local health department in your county or city for more information.
16. Get a second opinion for making major decisions
According to an article published on Foxnews, there are three times that you should get the second opinion about your health—When you are uncomfortable with your diagnosis or recommended treatment, when a doctor recommends a serious but non-emergency surgery, and when you don’t feel that you are being heard.
A second opinion may trigger some new cost, but it may also save you from unnecessary expensive treatment and a possible diagnostic error. Check with your insurance policy on coverage for a second opinion.
17. Choose the right health insurance plan
There are many factors affects which health plan you should choose. The right decision can help you save money on medical bills. Check out how we can pick a health plan in 15 minutes or less.
The bottom line is that you need to know your typical health care costs and whether you are going to start some new treatments in the coming year. Based on that information, you decide on whether you will choose a plan with a high premium but a low out-of-pocket cost, or one with a low premium but a high out-of-pocket fee.
18. Prepare for Medicare enrollment before you turn 65
Enrollment of Medicare is not as simple as people usually assume. Don’t wait until your 65-year birthday to start the preparation work. It is recommended you start doing research and preparing to make decisions when you turn 64. Start early, so you won’t miss the deadline or make inaccurate assumptions which may be rather costly. Check out these Medicare enrollment tips.
Medical Bill Review
19. Review your medical bill for errors
Don’t just take your medical bills for granted, read it and study it. I know it is not fun to look at such bills, but understanding what and how much you have been charged is critical for avoiding wrongful charges.
Not sure what to look at to detect errors? This article helps you spot the common medical bill errors, such as duplicated charges and charge for canceled test. Trust me, these are super useful tips. More than once, I noticed I was charged for something that was actually fully paid by the insurance.
20. Use flexible spending account
The flexible saving account (FSA) is a pre-tax benefit account for healthcare cost on medical, dental and vision care. The maximum contribution for healthcare FSA is $2,600 in 2017. It is a great way to save money on income tax.
21. Use health saving account
Health saving account (HSA) could be another way to cut tax and use they money for health care. If you and your family are in a good health condition (no big health cost is foreseen) and you are enrolling in a high-deductible health plan. HSA may be a good choice for you. The 2017 contribution limit is $3,400 for single and $6,750 for a family. Please note that if you use HSA, you cannot contribute to your healthcare FSA.
In addition to tips above to save money on medical bills, we can always try to improve our health through no-cost health behaviors, such as a healthy diet. Share with us on how you have saved on healthcare.