“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship” – Buddha
This is a guest article from Noreen
One of the most emotionally charged debates in the U.S. is who should pay for health benefits and expenses. While the politicians haggle over the issue, Americans are dealing with increasing health insurance, more out-of-pocket expenses for drugs and medical services, all taking a bigger bite out of an already tight budget. A medical emergency can easily become a crisis situation and chronic or catastrophic illness has the potential to bring overwhelming debt. And if you’re one of the millions of Americans who have no health insurance or minimal coverage, you may be tempted to avoid seeing the doctor.
So what’s a person to do? Ultimately, we are each responsible for our own health and wellness. Whether you are helped by a government program, have health insurance or not, the choice to take care of your body is a personal decision. Start with a positive, proactive attitude and focus your attention on ways to be more efficient in how you spend your dollars on medical needs. Here are a few ideas to help rein in the high cost of healthcare expenses:
Review Your Health Insurance Options The most obvious way to curb medical expenses is to have health insurance coverage. While it may be a hardship to buy a broad-spectrum policy, you may be able to afford catastrophic coverage that will protect against the most insidious health concerns, like cancer. If you’re lucky enough to have health insurance, be sure to know what is covered and how much you’re paying. If you have the option to choose the company and terms, take the time to check competitor rates to see if you’re getting the best one for your needs.
Visiting a Physician
Always check with the billing clerk in the physician’s office before scheduling an appointment to be sure they accept your insurance. Many insurance policies offer up to 50 percent off a doctor visit when you choose an in-network physician. The savings apply even before the deductible is met. If you’re without insurance coverage, a visit to a hospital ER will be a costly way to treat routine health issues. Take advantage of urgent care facilities or walk-in clinics. Often staffed by nurse practitioners, these clinics are located in select drugstores and groceries locations, often providing lower medical costs, convenient for minor health concerns.
Cutting the Cost of Medical Expenses
• Take advantage of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), if offered by your employer. The money you save in your account is tax-deferred and designed to help pay medical expenses that are not covered by an insurance policy. Maximize your contributions to use pre-tax dollars for insurance deductibles, doctor co-pays and prescriptions. • One cost-cutting measure for anyone using prescription medications is to request a generic version of those you’re taking. These medicines are comparable with their name-brand version in dosage form, strength, quality and performance characteristics. The intended use is the same but saves consumers upwards of 20 percent over the price of the original version. • Many medical procedures and surgeries can be performed as an outpatient, known as ambulatory services. Ask your doctor if a same-day or ambulatory service would be appropriate for your next procedure. The savings can be substantial with the elimination of lengthy admissions, the reduction of medications. Doctors benefit by a better use of their time. Don’t hesitate to ask, if it may be right for you.
Paying for Medical Care
Paying the bill is an added stress in the middle of an already stressful situation. It is common practice for physicians and hospitals to negotiate with patients to help offset the high cost of their services. Offering cash payments may give a degree of leverage to get the bill lowered. One important thing to note about paying the bill; do not use a credit card unless you have already negotiated for a lower payment. Paying in full with plastic will eliminate any negotiating rights and you’ll be stuck with the original charge. Admittedly, these are the bigger steps you can take but in no way reflect the numerous other ways you can save on health and medical expenses. The most fruitful way to lower healthcare costs is to live a balanced life by choosing nutritious foods, learning to ease stress, exercising and having regular checkups.
About The Author: As a freelance writer for popular finance blogs and websites, Noreen Ruth provides readers with the most up-to-date information on credit cards and other financial issues. Her goal is to educate consumers about topics that may impact their ability to manage their credit/debt responsibly. Noreen shares tips on how to compare and apply for a credit card, manage credit card debt, apply for debt reduction help and any other financially related topics.