According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average American spends $12,530 on healthcare. The median household income is just over $67,000, so this is a big chunk of a family’s budget. The changing job market after Covid-19 and the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance have made more Americans aware of the gaps in their healthcare coverage, and how confusing the system can be to navigate. For those with chronic conditions and long-term treatment needs, finding ways to cover medical costs without breaking the bank is a regular activity. In many common healthcare scenarios, the savvy consumer can find significant savings if you know where to look.
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Evaluate Your Current Insurance Plan
Are you getting the most out of your insurance plan? Your plan dictates the cost of many of your healthcare-related expenses. Make sure you study your plan and know what is covered under it and what isn’t.
Take the time to understand what your copay and coinsurance costs are, how big your deductible is, and which providers, facilities, or hospitals are in-network. Remember to get familiar with the drug formulary associated with your plan too. You can work with your healthcare provider to change prescriptions to fall into a lower price tier of your coverage.
If your current plan doesn’t suit your current healthcare needs, think about changing your coverage. Whether your plan is private, employer, or state-sponsored, you might have other options available that suit your needs better.
Find Ways To Save On Prescriptions
Pharmacy savings cards are free services that offer discounts on drug prices at the pharmacy counter. Programs like SingleCare allow you to search your prescription to find the lowest prices in pharmacies near you. All you need to do is show the pharmacist your card to get access to savings on your prescriptions. You can also download this as an app. Some pharmacies like Walmart and Walgreen have prescription savings programs that all customers can take advantage of.
Don’t assume that your healthcare provider or pharmacist will automatically prescribe you the cheapest treatment available. Doctors often prescribe the name-brand drugs that you are most familiar with. Generic drugs are just as effective as brand-name drugs and can cost 80-85% less on average. Always ask your pharmacist if there is an equally effective, less expensive generic alternative for your prescription.
If you take the same medication or medications regularly, you might be able to save some money by filling your Rx with a mail-order pharmacy. Mail-order pharmacies will allow you to fill your prescriptions in bulk, delivering you 90-day supplies instead of 30-day supplies, often at a discounted price. Many mail-order pharmacies will work with the SingleCare prescription discount card for even more savings.
Always Shop Around
The best thing that you can do for any large healthcare cost is to explore your options. A lot of people don’t realize that the same procedure can cost tens of thousands of dollars more at one hospital or facility than another, or when performed by one doctor versus another. For scheduled procedures or surgeries, patients can call hospitals in advance to request invoice estimates. A lot of insurance plans will let you search for in-network providers before you schedule an appointment. You can also use Medifind if you need a doctor to treat a specific condition. Some hospitals and insurers even offer online pricing tools for real-time estimates.
If you want to keep your current provider, it is worth asking if they are able to provide the treatment at a lower cost in a different location. Some doctors practice in more than one facility, all of which may bill differently for many of the same services. Depending on your health plan, your doctor may be able to provide services like vaccines, procedures, or testing at a lower cost at another facility. It’s always asking if your care would cost less at another treatment site.
Prescription drug prices also vary across pharmacies. You can use apps to compare prices at pharmacies near you to find the lowest price before you leave the house.
Avoid Unnecessary Healthcare Expenses
Be honest with yourself about the potential financial challenges you might face following a treatment plan or filling a prescription. Identifying your own financial limitations will help you to narrow down the right questions to ask your insurance plan and your healthcare provider about how to find lower-cost options. Ask yourself if you really need the test, prescription, or procedure that has been recommended. Find out if there is an alternative, more affordable option that can work for you.