The number of people with medical insurance is in the majority. However, medical care is still one of the largest areas of expenditure for any average family. In many cases debts accumulated by the way of medical bills have also culminated in bankruptcies for quiet a few people. The cost of drugs, medical insurance and primary care are steadily rising, putting undue financial pressure on families at large.
Although different policies and plans issued by the government are always available to assist people with moderate social means, the increasing cost of medical products are also pushing up the basic deductibles, on an average rising at a rate of 6% per annum, against reduced benefits offered.
Therefore, the need of the hour is to discover ways of reducing the cost of medical care. No longer can the consumer afford to shop for medical care just based on quality alone. Price is becoming a steady consideration, just like in the case of any consumer product. However, shopping for that perfectly priced policy is rendered difficult by the existing system.
The first step a consumer must therefore take is to start asking questions about the necessity of a procedure, medications prescribed or tests ordered for. You will need to talk to your doctor or primary caregiver in order to be sure that you are not being billed for unnecessary or repetitive procedures or tests. Here are some tips for you to consider when it comes to choosing care providers and pricing.
Be More Proactive
- Run an online research to determine average service costs. Become an informed consumer and once you have received a recommendation to undergo a procedure or a diagnosis, go online and check consumer websites, government databases and other trusted internet based resources to determine if you are being overcharged.
- Doctors and service providers can give you an estimate of the cost involved in undergoing a procedure or purchasing a recommended drug. You can ask for an estimate even before setting up an appointment for a procedure.
- In case you are recommended a procedure with a high out of pocket deductible against your insurance plan, verbally verify if the procedure is completely necessary before securing the services of a doctor.
- Competition, even in the field of health care, is a good thing and is always set to benefit the consumers. Therefore, in case you have been recommended a procedure which is also offered by other providers, you can actually opt to bargain for a discount on the final bill.
- Since most health care providers like individual doctors and hospitals are generally paid by the insurance companies, cash flow is largely tight. Therefore, in case you choose to pay in cash, they can offer you a discount or for that matter, you can always ask for one. Paying in cash also eliminates making an insurance claim, thereby not pushing up your premium amount and saving you the hassle of doing the necessary paperwork.
Cut Back On Prescription Drug Costs
Another area of major expenditure in relation to healthcare, other than direct procedures, is the cost of prescription drugs. Most drugs have cheaper alternatives although sometimes, costlier ones are prescribed by medical personnel for various reasons.
- Search for over the counter (OTC) to medication which you have been prescribed. It is not recommended that you research and self-medicate. However, you can definitely ask your doctor to suggest alternative drugs which can address your symptoms but cost significantly less.
- Mail order pharmacies and wholesale drug sellers can also provide prescription medication at reduced costs. Some of the popular generic drugs are also offered on subscription basis at a discounted price by large retail pharmacy chains. You can also ask your doctor to recommend such a wholesale drug supplier capable of fulfilling large prescription packages.
- Avoid brand name drugs simply because large pharmaceutical companies generally spend a significant amount of money promoting and advertising these medicines. In turn, this raises the cost of the drug itself. Generic alternatives can make for significantly cheaper replacements which are just as effective and safe.
Review your Bills
One of the biggest points where you might generally end up overpaying for health care can be attributed to billing errors, both human and in a sense, intentional. Apparently, hospital bills generally contain overcharges in 9 out of 10 cases.
- Review your bills before you settle them. Bills may contain errors or discrepancies. Check the bill to see if you have received every test, service and medication that you are being charged for. In order to be doubly sure about the items on your bill, don’t refrain from asking for copies of your test results, charts, pharmacy logs and cross reference them with the bill you have been presented with.
- Normally, you are sent a copy of the explanation of benefits statement. This document does not contain the detailed breakdown of all the things you have been charged for during your inpatient stay. Itemized bills are an excellent way of finding out exactly how much and what specific things you are being charged for. Ask for it.
- Review your health insurance coverage manual. This document should be able to clearly outline which charges are to be borne by the insurance company and which items you’ll need to pay for out of pocket. Any and all covered expenses you have incurred in the course of your treatment is to be paid by the insurer. In some cases, claim processors can make errors resulting in incorrect billing. You’ll need to remain aware of your covered expenses when you review your bill.
- Sometimes, both itemized bills as well as explanation of benefits statements contain a lot of procedure codes which most people fail to make sense of. Professional medical bill reviewers may be able to assist you in deciphering these documents and help you figure out if you are being erroneously billed or overcharged for any services rendered.
Set up a Healthcare Plan
Reducing your cost of health care is not just limited to how well you manage your medical bills or cut down on drug costs. It is also about some nifty financial planning, setting up backup plans and purchasing the right kind of medical coverage which can help you in the long run.
- Buying the right kind of medical coverage is an absolute must. Not all policies are designed alike. Some policies are better suited to meet your specific needs. Talk to your agent or your insurer to find out if there are any plans more in line with your health requirements. Moreover, don’t settle for the quote that you have been given while buying coverage. Shop around, use online services to compare policy benefits and costs, review quotes and then narrow down on the policy which suits your budget and your needs.
- The health care industry is competitive and negotiations can buy you a reduced bill. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor’s office for a discount. They actually might consider taking a slice off of your bill just to retain your patronage. Moreover, in case you find yourself in a position where you can’t seem to pay your medical bill in full or on time, you can set up a payment plan with the billing office. A payment plan will let you break the bill down into small, easily manageable payments which you can make over a stretch of time.
- There are some health specific investment instruments which you might choose to put your money in. In case you have a medical coverage which does not insure you for certain conditions and causes, you can start saving money through these instruments to take care of future needs which your insurer won’t pay for. Withdrawals against such instruments are generally tax free as long as the money is earmarked for qualified medical expenses.
Although the cost of health care may seem daunting, given how it seems to go up every year, it is possible to tune your insurance policy better and overall take a more careful, planned approach to finances to reduce your medical bills. Hospitals are known to overcharge and there are cheaper alternatives to prescription drugs. What you need to do is remain vigilant and always look out for options and opportunities which can help you shave a little off your bills. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned.