You could have great insurance from your employer, but it’s still likely for you to pay a bigger share of your medical expenses than before. A large portion of those costs accrues throughout a year, either from deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance.
The median deductible for in-network care is charged by big employers with $1,300 for employee-only coverage, and $3,000 for families, according to the National Business Group on Health.
Especially now, when so many workers are constantly re-upping benefits choices on open enrollment, there are so many moves you could make to take charge of your health care costs, and save as much money as possible.
Let’s discuss more ways through which you can save money on medical and health care costs. Whether you have insurance from your employer, via Medicare, or even personal insurance, these strategies might help you out!
Save a lot of money on X-Rays and Tests
Some places will charge you hundreds of dollars above the market price for x-rays and tests. “I have seen many people get charged $500 for an x-ray, which should cost only $30.
It can happen ALL the time.” according to Jeffrey Rice, CEO of Healthcare Bluebook, which deals with comparing prices every day using a nationwide database of medical payments. Independent radiology centers are more affordable than hospitals, even if the same radiologist might be reading the x-rays.
“It’s very common for the radiologist to be in a building in the morning and then commute to another one in the afternoon” Rice explained. “While it’s the same radiologist, an MRI will cost you in one place $500, and in another place will be $3,000.”
Ask doctors about alternative facilities
A very similar strategy might work when it comes to surgeries and other types of procedures. But this time you won’t have to switch doctors. Lots of surgeons work in various places, like a hospital or various stand-alone surgery centers.
Plus, they get paid the same, no matter the place they work in. However, the facility is the one that drives the cost and the difference can be huge. For example, the cost of arthroscopic knee surgery in Chicago usually ranges from $1,887 to $23,935, and a fair price is usually around $6,425.
Before deciding on anything, you can ask about the facility’s price and then compare it with other prices. In case the facility is overcharging, you can get back in touch with the doctor and require a lower-cost option.
Make a list of preferred labs
Doctors will usually have all kinds of boxes for lab tests in their offices. If by any chance, they drop the blood in the wrong box, “it can easily change your $50 test into a $500 test” according to Rice. You can check to see if your health plan has a more advantageous plan with lower costs.
Stay in your insurer’s network
It is highly important to stay in-network while you have an HMO, which usually doesn’t cover out-of-network care except for certain emergencies. Even if you have a PPO, which might include some coverage for out-of-network providers, it might still get a bit expensive to leave your insurer’s network.
In general, you pay a higher deductible (sometimes even double the in-network deductible), and you will have a much higher out-of-pocket spending limit. Not to mention that you will usually be charged a bigger percentage of the costs, maybe 20% for in-network care and 40% for out-of-network care.
You should use your insurer’s tools to find in-network providers, but also make sure that the facility, doctor, and anesthesiologist are all in the same network before you schedule any procedure.
Find more affordable urgent care
Sometimes the inevitable kicks in and you have to go to the emergency room. You might be able to get the needed care, but it will be at an urgent-care center, or you could go to a convenience-care clinic for only a fraction of the cost.
The average emergency room visit might be around $1,757, compared with $153 for an urgent-care center, which is a huge difference, if you think about it. Retail health clinics, like drugstores and supermarkets, usually cost even less than that.
If you know in advance where is the nearest in-network urgent-care and other retail clinics, you could save a lot of time and money, especially when it comes to small children.” Urgent care and retail clinics might be good for fractures, sprains, strep throat, pink eye, colds, ear infections, flu, and also rashes.
Take advantage of Telehealth
You could save a ton of time and money only if you take advantage of virtual visits with a doctor, either by phone, or video chat, for complaints such as respiratory infections, bronchitis, flu, allergies, and coughs.
You could even e-mail a photo of a rash for a quick diagnosis. And the stats are impressive in this matter: telehealth is rapidly growing in popularity, as 96% of big employers decided to offer the option back in 2018, according to the National Business Group on Health.
Visits usually cost around $40, and the typical co-pay is somewhere around $15, but usually less. It’s important to mention that the average co-pays are $50 for urgent care and $150 for an emergency-room visit.
Use your Insurer’s tools to find better deals
There are various options when it comes to insurers that have the needed tools to help you compare all sorts of prices at in-network facilities. For example, there’s Cigna, which is a mobile app that shows you the closest care options, but also calculates how much you’d have to pay with your current policy.
The app will even tell you if you’re in the deductible period and if you’re obliged to pay the full cost, which is, in my opinion, like having a personal assistant that takes care of all your needs!
Ask for a cash discount
Lots of people don’t manage to hit their deductible each year, so they have to pay the full price their insurer already negotiated for their care. In this situation, it could be worth your time to ask the provider if there’s any chance to get a discount for not using your insurance and instead, paying cash.
With outpatient imaging and a couple of outpatient surgery, you might be able to get 20% off the insurance rate if you decide to pay cash.
Switch to generic drugs
Generics can cost as much as 85% less than brand-name drugs, and there are some plans out there that have a $0 co-pay for “preferred” generics. Generally, your pharmacist is supposed to be able to change to generic at the counter without asking your doctor.
But if that specific drug doesn’t have a generic, you can ask a doctor or a pharmacist if there’s another more affordable alternative.
Consider lower-cost therapeutic alternatives
Don’t worry, if your drug doesn’t have a generic alternative, you can still save money! For a wide range of health conditions, especially when it comes to high blood pressure and cholesterol, there’s a wide variety of drugs that do very similar things.
In this case, the insurer could charge a 35% coinsurance rate for a drug, but only a 20% coinsurance rate for another one that’s preferred brand-name drug.
Use a certain pharmacy
The wide majority of Medicare Part D prescription-drug plans, just like many pre-65 health plans include a preferred pharmacy that will be less expensive. As an example, The Humana Walmart Part D plan charges only a $1 co-pay for preferred generics at Walmart, but a $10 co-pay at other pharmacies.
The difference is huge! You will pay 35% for a brand-name drug at Walmart and Sam’s Club, compared to 50% at other pharmacies. So before you pick any plan, you have to make sure that the preferred pharmacy you decide on is convenient.
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