Lower-Cost Health Care Options
Health care costs continue to rise, but you can take steps to keep them under control. The following suggestions from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality can help.
Ask for a break
About two-thirds of adults who asked for a lower price from a hospital or dentist got it, according to a 2005 Harris Interactive poll. If you’re paying out of pocket or face a high deductible, ask if your doctor will accept a lower amount.
Do what you’re told
About half of all Americans don’t follow instructions about taking medicine. This accounts for 10 percent of annual hospital visits.
Stay in network
Choose doctors, hospitals, and other providers that are part of your insurance company’s network. This can cut your costs by hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Check out walk-in clinics
Walk-in clinics are found at retail pharmacies. They charge about $25 to $100 for treating minor ailments, such as earaches or stomach upsets. This is about 25 percent less than the cost of a doctor visit.
Use your wellness benefits
Take advantage of any wellness benefits your company offers. Many large companies offer smoking-cessation classes, discounts on gym memberships, and health-risk assessments.
Check your alternative-care coverage. If you’ve been paying for acupuncture or chiropractic care because you assume your insurance won’t cover it, check again. Nearly 90 percent of insurance companies cover some alternative remedies.
Pay by check
Most doctors lose thousands each year on unpaid bills and spend thousands on credit card processing fees. Paying in cash or by check can often get you a 10 percent discount.
Don’t be a pushover
If your insurer refuses a claim, don’t give up without a fight. Begin by calling customer service, then write an appeal letter. Record everything, including when calls were made and whom you spoke with.
Review your bills
As many as 80 percent of hospital bills contain errors. To catch the mistakes, keep a log of every test and medication you get. Check this against your medical bill. Bring any errors to the hospital’s and your insurer’s attention. If you pay the standard 20 percent of a hospital bill, catching mistakes can add up to big money back in your pocket.
Make a call, not an appointment
Many doctors or nurses will answer care questions on the phone, saving you the cost and time of an office visit.
Finally, take care of yourself. Many illnesses can be cared for at home. If you use some common sense, many symptoms and minor illnesses can be treated without going to a doctor.