If you’re like most Americans, you’re stretched pretty thin financially these days. While wages have been slowly rising, they’ve barely kept up with inflation.
According to this report, health care costs have increased by 5 to 6% annually for the past ten years. It is undoubtedly a top expense for many Americans and a burden for even more.
This doesn’t mean you always have to pay exorbitant prices without a second thought. Also, even though it’s probably one of your top concerns when looking for healthcare services, it should not scare you away.
There are several ways that you can lower the cost of your healthcare. This will help you feel better about what type of care you’re getting while knowing you won’t go broke doing it.
9 Proactive Ways to Reduce Medical Costs
Here are nine great ways that you can reduce your medical costs:
- Take Advantage of Health Benefits
There are many health benefits available to help reduce your healthcare costs. Taking advantage of these benefits can help you save money on your healthcare expenses.
These are some of the most popular health benefits you can get:
- Yearly health screenings and vaccinations – These check your health status and help catch any underlying issues early. This way, you can start treatment before it worsens.
- Health management services – If you have a chronic illness, using a case management service or health advocate is one way to reduce your healthcare costs significantly. Their guidance will educate you to get the best and most affordable service.
- Prenatal Care – Attending prenatal classes consistently can help to ensure both mother and baby are in good health during pregnancy and birth. Failure to follow up with these classes might result in expensive complications down the line.
- Discounted or free services – Some of these include wellness or get-fit programs, prescription glasses, and general medical care.
- Be Educated and Proactive
Being proactive and well-educated can help reduce your healthcare costs. This is because the more you know about your health and how to take care of yourself, the less likely you will need expensive medical care.
It is crucial to be proactive and take charge, especially concerning your health. Patient engagement in healthcare is where a patient works closely with their provider to improve their health.
When patients understand their role in healthcare is important, they gain confidence to do something about their situation. Acting on it is also known as being an ‘activated patient.’
However, there are other factors to consider, like having a family history of certain health conditions, for example. In this case, you may be more likely to develop those conditions and thus need more medical care.
Additionally, your lifestyle choices can also impact your health and how much healthcare you need. For example, if you smoke, drink excessively, or don’t eat a healthy diet, you’re more likely to need medical care than someone who doesn’t make those choices.
So, while being trained and well-educated can help reduce your healthcare costs, it’s not the only factor to consider.
- Use Less Health Insurance
One way to reduce your healthcare costs is to use less health insurance. This may seem counterintuitive, but most healthcare plans include a deductible.
A deductible is an amount you must pay for healthcare services before your insurance plan starts paying for covered services.
The average health insurance deductible in 2019 is $1655 and could be much higher depending on your insurance type.
It’s important to keep that number in mind when your health care provider recommends procedures or treatments. Consider if it makes more sense to pay cash instead.
You can use up some of the money you have saved towards the deductible first before doing a procedure such as getting lip-filler injections. Also, consider cash for laser hair removal, Lasik surgery, teeth whitening, etc.
Also, if you are healthy and don’t use your insurance much, you may be able to get by with a less comprehensive (and less expensive) plan.
Of course, this only works if you are actually healthy. If you have any chronic conditions or are likely to need frequent medical care, you will need to make sure you have a good health insurance plan.
- Pick a Provider and Make a Plan
If you have a healthcare plan, you should still pick a provider and plan ahead for emergency care to reduce your healthcare costs. Planning will help you understand your options and make the best decision for your care.
Fewer Americans use primary care doctors than in previous years, often because they are unaware of the value that such doctors can bring to their health.
A primary care doctor or a medical services center establishes continuity for you by monitoring your personal health needs and knowing about your past reports. They’re also able to provide high-value care for you.
It helps, too, if you use a GP who sits down with you from time to time and understands your present conditions, concerns, illnesses, and worries.
Such insights form the basis of future research to make healthcare more personalized just for you. It will also save you costly visits to the ER in an emergency.
- Consider Medical Cost Sharing
Medical cost sharing is a way for people to share the cost of their medical expenses with others. There are several medical cost-sharing programs available, and they can be a great way to reduce your healthcare costs.
Some charitable or non-profit organizations collect funds and low-cost fees from their members in cost-sharing programs. When any member has an urgent medical expense, they can apply to these programs for help with their medical bills.
There are benefits that come with such programs, even though there’s no contract that guarantees payment. An example is being able to lower the cost of health services by paying in cash.
- Utilize Outpatient Facilities
There are many reasons to use outpatient facilities instead of inpatient facilities when seeking medical care. These are a few:
- Less Expensive – Outpatient facilities are generally less expensive than inpatient facilities and offer a more convenient and comfortable setting for patients.
- Shorter Wait Times – Also, outpatient facilities typically have shorter wait times and provide more personalized care than inpatient facilities. This can be a primary advantage for patients who need prompt medical attention.
- Closer to Home – Finally, outpatient facilities are often located closer to patients’ homes, making them more convenient to access. This can be a major benefit for patients with transportation challenges or who live in rural areas.
Overall, outpatient facilities can help patients reduce healthcare costs while still receiving high-quality care.
- Avoid Overpaying for Medication
When it comes to medications, there are a few ways that you can avoid overpaying.
- Avoid Brand Names – One way is to ask your doctor if there is a generic version of the medication that you can take. Generic medicines are typically much cheaper than brand-name medications.
- Ask For Coupons – Another way to avoid overpaying for medication is to ask your doctor if there are any coupons or discounts that you can take advantage of. For example, many pharmaceutical companies offer coupons and discounts on their medications.
- Pay Cash – Lastly, you can try to negotiate with your doctor or pharmacist. If you are paying for your medication out-of-pocket, you may be able to get a lower price if you are willing to pay cash.
- Use Urgent Care
You may be tempted to go to the emergency room if you have a minor health issue. However, this can be a costly mistake.
Urgent care centers are a much more cost-effective option for minor health issues. They provide the same level of care as the ER but at a fraction of the cost.
In addition, urgent care centers are typically much less crowded than the ER so you can get in and out more quickly.
- Consider a Health Savings Account
Like having a 401k, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a way to save money on your taxes by contributing pre-tax funds to an account. Many employers offer this type of savings account, so you should take advantage of it.
Withdrawals made from the account can be used to pay for medical costs, including insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and more. The great thing is you won’t have to pay taxes on the money you withdraw.
Contributions to an HSA are tax-deductible, meaning they’re subtracted from your taxable income before any other deductions and credits.
HSAs come in two types:
- High Deductible Health Plans: Basic coverage that requires an out-of-pocket expense of at least $1,400 for individuals or $2,800 for families before insurance kicks in.
- Standard Deductible Plans: Basic coverage that does not require an out-of-pocket expense. The cost depends on your income and family size.
Healthcare costs may be one of the most expensive aspects of life. Unfortunately, these costs continue to be a significant problem for many Americans. Even despite having health insurance, thousands of people still find that they are struggling to pay them.
It’s important to remember that there are many ways to reduce your healthcare costs. By making smart choices and being informed about your healthcare options, you can find the right plan that meets your needs and budget.
Be bold, proactive, shop for discounts, and always speak with your provider to know your options. Once you have all the information you need, you will be able to make informed decisions to reduce your medical costs and live healthily.