Take Charge – DIY Healthcare Cost Reduction
Although healthcare costs are expected to grow modestly in 2017, you still can be hit with some high medical bills.
The cost of an average stay in a state- or government-run hospital in 2016 was $1,974 per day. With an average hospital stay of just over four days, that comes to a grand total of $8,883. If your insurance plan has a high deductible, you might have to cover all or most of these costs out-of-pocket.
Additionally, the cost of health plans purchased on the Affordable Care Act marketplace exchanges soared for 2017. Michigan residents saw price hikes of 16.7 percent, while Oklahomans had to contend with plans that jumped 50 percent.
With a little research, you can keep your medical costs down. Here are some areas where you can cut costs:
Health Insurance: It’s tempting to choose the health insurance plan with the lowest monthly premium. But, if you or your family are prone to illness, paying a higher premium in exchange for lower out-of-pocket costs could save money in the long run.
The same holds true for deductibles. A deductible is the amount you pay for covered medical expenses before your insurance plan starts to pay its share of costs. If you have a $6,000 deductible, you’ll have to pay $6,000 of medical costs before your coverage kicks in (except for certain preventive treatments, which are covered outside the deductible).
Once you have a plan, carefully read it to see what procedures are covered. It can save you money if you know beforehand if preapprovals are needed, what it costs to see a doctor, or visit an emergency room.
Health Savings Accounts: If your plan comes with a high deductible, it’s worth contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA). You’re not taxed on the money you put into an HSA; the money grows tax free and you can withdraw funds with no tax consequences for qualified medical expenses. Your employer may even contribute matching funds. Any money not used can be rolled over into the next year. When you retire, you can use any leftover funds for future medical expenses.
Choose the Best Level of Care: It’s important to choose the correct facility for the illness. For instance, don’t go to an emergency room when a clinic will work just fine. An article published by the Mayo Clinic Health System in 2011 listed the prices for the treatment for strep throat at various medical centers. The prices ranged from $60 for a visit to a convenience care clinic at a store to $402 for an emergency room visit.
Likewise, consider cost when choosing where to have non-emergency surgery. A 2010 study by McKinsey & Company for The Alliance, an employer group interested in controlling employee health costs, found big differences in costs between inpatient and outpatient surgeries. A cystoscopy (a bladder procedure) cost an average of $22,673 as an inpatient and about half that, or $11,704, as an outpatient.
Determine What’s Necessary: Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about costs. Your doctor may be able to recommend a lower-cost test or medication or skip a test altogether.
Check for Errors: When you get your itemized bill, review it to ensure you are charged for services you actually received and whether the items were coded correctly.
Negotiate: If you receive an expensive procedure, ask the billing department whether you qualify for financial aid or if they’ll negotiate a discount for a cash payment. If the bill is astronomical, you might want to work with a consumer organization to look for billing errors and negotiate costs.
Lower-Cost Brand-Name Drugs: Check the website of the brand name drug you’re taking to see if a coupon is available to help lower costs. You sometimes can receive a 120-day supply of medication for the cost of a 90-day supply if your provider is willing to write the larger prescription.
Wellness Programs: Many employers will give their employees a discount on health insurance premiums if they participate in wellness activities such as completing a health risk assessment or enrolling in a fitness program.
Preventive Care: All ACA-compliant health insurance plans have a number of free preventive features such as cancer screenings, and well-woman and well-child visits. In addition to screenings offered by your health plan, you often can get free screenings for diabetes, HIV, high blood pressure or other health needs at community health fairs.
Online or Telephone Consultations: Some health plans offer free or low-cost email, video or telephone consultations with doctors and nurses. Many will also write prescriptions and usually are open 24 hours a day. Check your health insurance company’s website, or read your plan’s policy or Evidence of Coverage to see if this option is available.
Healthy Lifestyle: Perhaps the most important thing you can do to save money is to protect your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says chronic diseases are responsible for seven of every 10 deaths each year. So, eat a balanced diet, stay active and avoid risky behaviors. See a doctor when you have a problem so it doesn’t get worse.
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In this issue:
This Just In...
What to Consider When Choosing a Place to Retire
Take Charge – DIY Healthcare Cost Reduction
Ensuring a Good Life for Your Family with Life Insurance
Retired? Need a Dentist? Here Are Your Options