As health-care consumers face another year of higher premiums, and start the clock over on their likely higher deductibles, many are looking for ways to cut their health-care costs. Despite the fact that out-of-pocket costs keep going up, the good news is that consumers have more control over their costs than they think.
Whether you get coverage through work, Medicare, or the marketplace, these five tips could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and keep you and your bank account a lot healthier in 2018:
Choose an independent doctor. Most consumers know to choose a doctor in their health plan’s network, but even within your network you will pay far less if you go to a doctor who is independent and not employed by a hospital, according to the Association of Independent Doctors, a national nonprofit dedicated to educating patients about their options.
Go to freestanding imaging and surgery centers. Similarly, going to a freestanding, or independent imaging center or outpatient surgery center, as opposed to one owned by a hospital, can save you thousands.
Ask for the cash price. Price transparency in health care is hard to come by, but more patients are demanding it, so they can make informed purchasing decisions. Ask for the costs up front with your insurance and without. Because most consumers don’t hit their annual deductibles, asking for the price up front can help them comparison shop.
Avoid the ER. Emergencies happen, but if you can avoid going to the emergency room, and can get your care at an urgent-care center you will pay about 10 percent of what you pay for an emergency room visit for the same treatment.
Choose generics. Most often –but not always –generic prescription drugs are just as effective as brand medications at as little as 15 percent of the price. Doctors, however, often prescribe the brand because it’s what they’re familiar with. Some also get “consulting fees” from pharmaceuticals to induce them to prescribe brand. You can typically ask your pharmacist to switch your prescription to a generic.
By following these cost-saving moves, patients won’t be the only ones who save, said Marni Jameson Carey, executive director for the association. For information, visit www.aid-us.org.