The cost of health care continues to go up in the United States, with insurance premiums increasing 4% a year – about four times our current inflation rate. Even if you have coverage from your employer, you are still likely to be paying about $4500 toward your insurance plan – with your employer paying another $16,000 or more. The situation is even worse if you have to pay for your own insurance – not only are there high premiums, you may also have a large deductible. What are some of the ways that you can keep these escalating costs under control?
To start with, try to get prepared before you get sick – if you wait until there is an emergency, you will probably end up taking the most expensive option. For example, try to find a good primary-care physician or urgent care center near to where you live. This will often avoid a trip to the emergency room – which could cost you $2000. A trip to an urgent care facility, on the other hand, is likely to cost in the region of $200 – a 90% saving for essentially the same treatment. Of course, if you have a life threatening condition, you will still need to go to the emergency department – but if you just have a broken leg, then you’re much better off avoiding the hospital trip.
This same principle applies to purchasing things such as medical devices. Often, you will find that the same product is priced differently depending on where you buy it, and different products with very similar capabilities often have very different prices as well. For example, if you need a hearing aid, you might want to compare those from Miracle-Ear Inc. with those from other suppliers. It’s also a good idea to clearly identify what you actually need – there’s no point in paying for things that you’re never going to use.
Drug costs are also a major problem for many people without full prescription coverage. Considering that some drugs cost thousands of dollars a year, having a strategy to bring these costs under control is essential. One of the things to look at is whether there is a generic drug replacement for any brand-name drugs that you have been prescribed. Talk to your doctor about this, but also be sure to talk to your insurance company to see how much you will save, and whether the generic version of the drug is covered at all. Also, look at any savings that you can get by ordering a longer supply of drugs – for example, if you can save by getting a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day one.
Finally, know your rights. You are entitled to know how much medical services will cost before you purchase them, and also have the right to select which medical provider will treat you – and can even refuse medical treatment entirely. Make sure you know what the cost is, and then hold your selected provider to this. If there is anything significantly different in your bill, then question it – and if you don’t get a satisfactory response, talk to a lawyer.
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