10 Tips to Cut Your Medical Costs
At most companies, both the employer and employees contribute to the cost of their health plan. Remember, your physician should be your primary source of information for any decisions you make regarding medical services.
- Stay healthy. A healthy lifestyle along with regular preventive care can help keep your health care costs low. Exercise and good nutrition contribute to a healthier life.
- Use home health care remedies whenever possible. You can reduce the cost of health care for yourself and others by solving health problems at home when appropriate.
- Choose a family doctor. Visiting your regular doctor or primary care physician (PCP) is more cost-effective than seeking care from several different specialists.
- Avoid unnecessary medical tests. In certain situations, the
cost and risk of medical tests can outweigh the benefits. Sometimes tests are
given simply as a standard hospital procedure. You do not have to take any
test. Before consenting to a test, ask:
- What is this test is for?
- How will it help me get better?
- How much will the test cost?
- Could it be done for less somewhere else?
- Is there a less costly test that could provide the same information?
- Control your drug costs. It is important to ask questions and learn the benefits and risks of your prescribed medications. Don't expect a prescription for medicine each time you visit the doctor. You can help keep costs low by finding out how the medication will help you, whether there is a generic or similar, less expensive version of the drug, and whether you can try a sample first.
- Be prepared before you see a specialist. Specialists have in-depth training and experience in particular areas of medicine and can give you the care and information you need for a major medical problem. In general, specialists' care is more expensive. You can help get the most out of specialty care through good communication and preparation. Before you see a specialist, understand what your primary doctor's diagnosis is and what your primary doctor wants the specialist to do. Ask about your options for treatment, keep your regular doctor involved and have test results sent to both you and your primary doctor.
- Use emergency services only for emergencies. Modern emergency services are invaluable in trauma or life-threatening situations but are inefficient for routine care. Emergency room services can be many times more expensive than care received at your regular doctor's office. When deciding whether to go to the emergency room, use your best judgment. In case of a true emergency, immediately go to the emergency room. Call ahead to let them know you're coming and notify your regular doctor if possible. Your family doctor can provide the emergency room staff with important medical information.
- Consider alternatives to hospitalization. If you need hospital care, keep your stay as short as possible. Hospital stays account for more than a third of your health plan premiums. Whenever possible, have tests done on an outpatient basis, use home nursing services and ask about hospice programs for the terminally ill. In certain situations, some health plans pay for home equipment and home nursing visits as an alternative to hospital care. Doctors are often very supportive of this option because they know most patients are more comfortable at home. If you are facing a hospital stay, ask your health carrier whether it can help you get the support that will allow you to return home sooner.
- If it's safe, wait. Sometimes physicians are afraid patients will think they're not doing their best if they don't take action right away. But, in many situations the old standby "take two aspirin and call me in the morning" is valid advice. On the other hand, waiting until a mild condition becomes serious can be both unpleasant and costly. Let your doctor know you're willing to wait if that's appropriate. He or she may consider it helpful to know you're willing to let time and nature take their course, but only if it's safe to do so.
- Learn as much as you can about your medical needs. By conducting your own medical research, you may discover more options and be better prepared to decide which course of action is best for you. You can start your research by asking your doctor for information or calling the hospital's medical library or using medical resources available on the web.