A lousy economy combined with rising health costs are causing many Americans to think twice before seeking healthcare or filling a prescription. Even people with health insurance are paying more as premiums rise and employers pay less of the bill.
The Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource offers tips to save money by working closely with care providers, being informed about insurance, price shopping for prescriptions, avoiding hospital stays when possible, and taking steps to stay well. Money-saving ideas include:
• Ask in advance about fees, including an estimate of the total expenses for your care. Check with the insurance company about what's covered.
• Ask the doctor to be a partner in reducing costs. The care provider might avoid duplicating tests or suggest lower-cost treatment options.
• Use nurse lines. Many health plans, hospitals, and some medical practices offer services where patients can call for medical advice. Talking with a nurse may be especially helpful when it's unclear if a medical appointment is needed.
• Pay premiums annually. Many policies offer discounts when premiums are paid on time and in full.
• Read the benefits information to make sure the insurer is paying for everything that's covered. If it appears that a claim has been denied in error, appeal the decision.
• Look for special services and extras, such as discounts on gym memberships, weight-loss programs, and medical equipment rental.
• Choose generic. They have the same active ingredients as brand-name drugs and cost less.
• Shop around. Prices vary from one pharmacy to another.
• Split pills if possible. The co-pay may be the same for higher-dose pills that can be cut in half as for a prescription of lower-dose pills.
On hospital care:
• Avoid the emergency room unless it's absolutely necessary. Instead, consider a nurse line or urgent care. For those without insurance, try to find a clinic with sliding-scale fees.
• Use outpatient services when possible. Tests and procedures that can be done without an overnight hospital stay cost less.
On staying well:
• Maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent and control serious and costly health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
• Give up expensive and unhealthy habits. Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable death and illness in the United States. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
• Make the basics for good health a priority. Floss and brush teeth daily. Use seat belts and bike helmets. Wear sunscreen. Wash hands frequently with soap and water.