As Congress debates how to fix our healthcare system, there are several actions you can take to save money on healthcare. No matter what happens to Obamacare, Trumpcare, or Ryancare, there are ways to reduce your healthcare expenses regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.
#1: Visit Urgent Care Clinics First
You have probably witnessed empty buildings being transformed into urgent care clinics in recent years. This is mostly because an emergency room visit can cost three times more than an urgent care visit.
If you have a life-threatening condition, go to the emergency room. Your life is more valuable than saving $300.
Urgent care is the better option when you only have a minor fever or aches & pains, allergies, and other common ailments.
Insurance companies also urge patients to visit urgent care centers to save money on healthcare. Partially because some insurance providers will only reimburse a specific dollar amount depending on the medical claim. Visiting the ER increases the likelihood that you will need to pay a larger difference.
#2: Call or Video Conference a Doctor
Insurance plans are also giving you 24/7 phone and video stream (Skype, Facetime, etc.) access to staff nurses and doctors. This option might even be a complimentary benefit of your insurance plan. It’s a great way to determine if you need to seek medical attention. If not, you save a trip to the clinic which saves you money in doctor visits and potentially spreading your germs to others in the waiting room.
#3: Use Generic Prescriptions
Depending on why you go to visit the doctor, he might write you a prescription. Many name brand medications offer generic versions after being on the market for several years when the patent expires. Generic medicine can be just as effective as the name brand for a fraction of the cost. They have the same active ingredients, but, might have different fillers that could affect performance.
While doctor visits are often infrequent visits, medication can be an ongoing cost. Finding cheaper alternatives is an easy way to save money on healthcare regardless of your insurance plan.
#4: Negotiate Prices
Some hospitals and medical offices will provide cash discounts by negotiating a price when you schedule the appointment. You can also use this tactic to create a payment plan.
It’s possible that you can still submit a claim to your insurance company after negotiating. Other times, this can be cheaper than paying your deductible.
Paying with cash is an awesome way to save money on healthcare for dental and vision care too. As dental & vision policies might be more expensive than self-paying for routine visits, dentists, orthodontists, and eye doctors often offer cash discounts for those that don’t use insurance.
#5: Contribute to an HSA
Started in 2003 as a way to reduce expenses in high-deductible health care plans, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) allow you to save money tax-free for medical expenses. It’s like a 401k plan for medical expenses.
Your employer or health insurance provider might offer an HSA or similar plan that is funded with pre-tax income dollars. Local banks and credit unions offer HSAs as well. The only requirement is that you have a high-deductible insurance plan.
Singles can contribute up to $3,400 in 2017 and families can contribute up to $6,750 in 2017. You can use HSA contributions to cover medical expenses until you reach your annual deductible when your insurance provider begins paying the expenses. Your money accumulates tax-free and rolls over into future years if you don’t use your entire account this year.
Your money accumulates tax-free and rolls over into future years if you don’t use your entire account this year. If you use the money on non-medical expenses, you will be taxed up to 20% on those withdrawals.
#6: Join a Fitness Rewards Program
You have probably heard a friend or co-worker talk about a Fitbit or similar device that tracks their exercise habits. Your employer might also offer a healthy rewards program that gives you cash or prizes for meeting specific exercise and healthy behavior targets such as walking 3,000 steps in one day or vigorous exercise at least 3 days each week.
While you won’t get rich from these programs, living a preventative lifestyle is one of the best ways to avoid costly medical expenses in the future. If you take care of your body today, your body will take care of you (& your wallet) in the future.
#7: Switch to a Health-Sharing Ministry
If you struggling to afford your monthly health insurance premiums, switching to a health-sharing ministry can make it real easy to save money on healthcare. These plans are currently exempt from the Obamacare penalty which fines you for not having adequate coverage for at least 10 months in the calendar year.
If Trumpcare passes, you will still be required to pay a penalty in its current format.
There are certain criteria you must agree to join a health-sharing ministry as they are faith-based and do not fund certain procedures like abortions or birth control. They also place a large emphasis on negotiating medical expenses (tip #4) to keep sharing costs down for you & the fellow members that share your bill. It’s all part of how they can charge a lower monthly “premium” than your traditional medical insurance provider.
Save Money on Healthcare Today!
By following any of these tips, you can save money on healthcare the next time you visit the doctor. Whether it’s contributing to an HSA or visiting a cheaper medical facility. No matter what health care legislation is passed, taking these steps will help minimize your out-of-pocket expenses.