With coming changes to our country's health care laws, you may feel confused or concerned about what to expect in the future. However, with a few tips and tricks, you can cut back and save money on important aspects of your family's medical care — no matter what the law is.
1. Set Up a Flexible Spending Account
Many benefits administrators offer plans in which you can set aside money from your paycheck that goes into a tax-deductible account for use on health-related items. These flexible spending accounts can be a great benefit to you or your family, if used correctly.
The flexible spending account has more limitations on what you can purchase with the funds, and any unspent money doesn't roll over to the next year. The trick here is to figure out if your healthcare costs are predictable. If they aren’t this may not be the choice for you, since you could potentially lose all you’re your flexible spending account’s money if you don’t use it before the year is up.
2. Shop Around for Lab Tests
Shopping for any service is just like shopping for goods — you should compare prices and making sure you are getting a good deal. When we buy electronics or other consumer products, we read reviews and figure out what the best route is. Many people don’t carry this mindset over to health care, but they should.
When a doctor refers you to see a specialist, you do not have to go to the same place on the referral. Instead, call other locations and see how much they are charging for the procedure. You will be surprised at how much the prices fluctuate for the same procedure across the entire country. You would be even more surprised to see how the price fluctuates right in your own ZIP code.
3. Buy Generic Medications
When your health care provider prescribes a medication, make sure to ask for the generic substitute when there's one offered. Another tip is to do some research with your insurance plan before you fill the prescription. Sometimes your co-pay will be higher than the full cost of a commonly used generic prescription, so if that's the case, ask the pharmacy not to bill your insurance.
Be up front with your doctor. Sometimes you will get lucky and your doctor will tell you about lower-costing options, or even offer the same medicines for less. A Wall Street Journal poll found that three out of five people were able to negotiate prices for medicines.
Some grocery stores even offer free prescriptions for generic antibiotics, diabetes medications, prenatal drugs, and other common prescriptions. There are even over-the-counter options like vitamin supplements for certain ailments. Be sure to ask your doctor if you can benefit from these types of treatments, instead.
4. Shop Online
Many people enjoy online shopping since they can browse a multitude of options without ever having to leave their homes. So why not shop for prescriptions online as well? Filling your prescriptions through an online pharmacy saves money and time, since you don't have to stand in a long line or wait for a busy pharmacist.
Make sure to plan and ask for refills with plenty of time to spare. Some online pharmacies have auto-refill options that send you your next supply regularly. You can find many medications online, and you can even buy Canadian Colcrys if you suffer from gout.
Another option is to consider checking the drugmaker’s website if you are taking a brand-name drug regularly. Sometimes the website will offer coupons and discounts that reduce the amount you will have to pay. Many manufacturers offer this, so always do your research online.
5. Understand Your Insurance Plan
Insurance plans are confusing, so sit down with your benefit representative and ask for a detailed explanation of your coverage. If you pay high premiums for a plan that covers health care expenses at 100% yet you rarely visit the doctor or take medication, you can save money by switching to a high-deductible plan.
In this type of plan, you pay the first few thousand dollars of your health care expenses, but premiums are much lower. Combine that plan with a health-savings account, and you can take control of your health care costs.
Health care is a necessity. With some careful planning, you can save money and still get quality care. Don’t forget to ask for help when you need it, and try to do as much shopping as possible. Remember, health care is still an industry where you pay for a service.