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Are There Ways To Cut Health Care Costs?

March 14, 2011

Many people do not have health insurance. Writing a blog about ways to cut health care costs can seem silly, but the reality is that for those who do have health care coverage there are many ways to streamline the costs. Health care, even when not scarce, is expensive and obviously needs an overhaul. For those of you that do have health insurance you are probably shouldering a larger portion of your health are costs. But as more insurers raise deductibles and switch from fixed-dollar co-payments to co-insurnace – which bases out-of-pocket expenses on a percentage of the total costs – you have an incentive to take more control over how much you spend.

Therin lies a problem, however: Most people have no idea how much medical care actually costs. If a gas station tried to charge you $10 for a gallon of gas, you’d walk away…but in health care, that same situation happens every day. Patients don’t know what isn’t a fair price, and they end up paying the equivalent of the $10 gallon of gas. Here are ways to cut your health care costs without sacrificing quality.

  • Make sure everyone you see is in-network. Most people don’t realize how much they save by actually staying within the insurer’s network.
  • Ask about alternate facilities. Doctors often work at outpatient surgery centers as well as hospitals, and what they charge can vary widely by location.
  • Find lower-cost after-hours care. The average in-network cost of an emergency room visit is about $933 – but a visit to an urgent-care costs only $72, on average.
  • Save big at independent facilities. Different facilities charge vastly different prices for x-rays and tests.
  • Ask about any extra discounts. Some plans offer additional discounts as an incentive to use certain providers.
  • Switch to generic drugs. The savings can be huge.
  • Find therapeutic alternatives. Some brand-name drugs don’t have a generic equivalent yet, but they have a therapeutic equivalent, which is in the same class of drugs but is chemically a little different.
  • Get your drugs through the mail. Mail-order pharmacies often provide a three-month supply of drugs for the price of one.
  • Split your pills. Ask your doctor if you can save money by cutting any of your pills. For example, the 30-day cost for 20-milligram tablet of Lipitor can be about the same as the 3-day cost for 40-mg tablets.
  • Double up. If you’re taking a 20-mg pill twice aq day, ask your doctor whether it would be safe to switch to a 40-mg pill once a day.
  • Get no-fee preventive care, schedule a screening. Many insurance plans must now provide certain preventive-care screenings without charging deductibles or co-payments.
  • Sign up for Medicare’s New benefits. Medicare beneficiaries also get an expanded roster of benefits without co-pays or deductibles.
  • Cash in on wellness benefits. More than 40% of large employers surveyed by the National Business Group on Health now offer discounts for participating in wellness programs.

My daughter, Chelsey, called me this weekend excited as her company now offers health benefits and she was given the option to cash in on wellness benefits which means  if she joins a gym and takes a wellness class once a month her insurance premiums are cut by 55%. I’ve had so many clients and employees that have been overwhelmed by the insurance package that they receive when they sign up they just toss it in their desk drawer. It is important to look at those documents as they can help you navigate the insurance game and hopefully help you save money. At GAI (www.gunwel.com) we can help you navigate your way to save money in your tax returns as well as in your everyday financial life. Give us a call at 212-979-6830 or stop by for a visit. You work hard for your money, let Gunwel Tax & Bookkeeping Service work smart to help you keep it! See you soon.

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