15 Ways to cut Your Medical Costs

Here’s a list of things that you can do to make life a little easier for yourself and your health care budget:

  • First things first: lose weight; quit smoking; eat healthily; wear seat belts; exercise. Doing this first step may very well wipe out the necessity for several of the items that follow. After all, the cheapest doctor bill is the one that doesn’t need to be paid.
  • Join a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and use only the service providers on the network list. Going outside of the network will cost you a larger slice of the bill.
  • If you’re on Medicare, go only to doctors who accept assignment, which means that they’ll charge no more than what Medicare will pay for a given procedure. You must still pay your deductible and appropriate percentage share of the bill, but you won’t have to pay any excess charges. Most doctors today accept assignment; if yours doesn’t, the local Social Security office should have a list of participating Medicare physicians. Your insurer may also have the information.
  • In fee-for-service plans, ask your doctors to limit their fees to whatever your insurance will pay. They could very well say yes.
  • Have your old X-rays sent to your new doctor or dentist; it will cut down on the cost and risk of being x-rayed again.
  • Use generic drugs unless there’s a good reason not to.
  • Get advice by telephone from your doctor or nurse; it’s much less costly than an office visit.
  • If you’re paying a portion of a doctor or hospital bill, be sure to get it itemized. Hospitals have been known to bill for treatments which you didn’t use. Some of their services will be listed in code, but you can get assistance in checking them. Visit the billing office and ask them to decipher anything you don’t understand, and itemize any lump sum charges labeled “pharmacy”, “miscellaneous”, etc. Don’t pay for anything which cannot be accounted for.
  • Get a copy of your doctor or hospital bill to see the amount that was actually paid. Your insurer may have received a discount. If you owe a percentage of the bill, it should be figured on the discounted amount unless your policy specifically states otherwise. Some insurers overcharge by billing you for a percentage based on the full price.
  • If there’s a 24-hour emergency clinic in your area, check their prices. They’re usually less expensive than a hospital emergency room.
  • If you’re in the hospital, tell them that you want to use your own aspirin, sleeping pills, or other routine medications as long as they don’t conflict with your treatment. Hospitals can charge $3 or more for a single pill that you may already have yourself.
  • Compare drug prices at several pharmacies; you’re likely to find substantial price differences. Also, many HMOs run their own low-cost mail-order pharmacies.
  • Try store-brand over-the-counter medications. They’re less expensive than their brand-name counterparts and often just as effective.
  • Check yourself regularly for breast cancer.
  • Learn how to take care of some illnesses yourself and follow your doctor’s directions to the letter.

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