Did you know that 66% of people who file for bankruptcy cite medical issues as a key contributor to their financial downfall?
It's no wonder why rising healthcare costs continue to be a hot topic of conversation. So finding creative ways to save on healthcare costs should be top of mind for you.
Whether you have Medicare, coverage through your employer, or insurance through the marketplaces, here are 9 ways to save on medical costs.
1. Incorporate Healthy Habits
Finding ways to improve your general health and wellness can lower your out-of-pocket health care costs. After all, fewer trips to the doctor means fewer copays and less money spent on healthcare.
Here are 4 simple actions you can take to live a healthier lifestyle.
Less sugar, more water. Drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water: Think cucumbers, watermelon and celery.
Sit less, more movement. Stand up throughout the day, stretch, take the stairs, and park further away: These are just a few ways to move more.
Get rest. When thinking of healthy habits, sleep often falls low on the list. But chronic sleep deprivation can increase heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and many other illnesses.
Wash your hands. The coronavirus pandemic serves as a major reminder to wash our hands frequently and correctly. Wash your palms, fingernails, and the backs of your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
2. Reduce Stress
Stress often increases with age, leading to a host of health problems. Finding ways to lower your stress can go a long way.
There are many simple ways to reduce stress in your daily life. Try things like working out or moving daily, spending more time with friends and family, and reducing your caffeine intake. And don't forget to laugh more.
3. Save Money on Medications
The cost of prescription drugs can really take a lot out of your wallet. So if you're used to getting brand-name medications, consider asking your doctor for a generic alternative. It could save you money in the long run.
For seniors especially, the cost of medications continues to rise at an alarming rate.
One of the simplest ways for seniors to save is to find and compare Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D). Start by comparing quotes, or talking to an insurance agent who is willing to research the medications you take.
The right agent will have knowledge of all the pharmacies close to your home and plans available in your area. He or she can also help you identify ways to save on your prescriptions.
4. Use a Health Savings Account (HSA)
You may have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA) through your employer (or previous employer). Using an HSA can save you money because your contributions are pre-tax dollars and can accrue interest.
And unlike a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), the HSA is owned by you, so it can carry over into your retirement. And there is no deadline on when you can spend the funds.
5. Know The Difference Between Emergency Care and Urgent Care
Some people don't know the difference between emergency care and urgent care. But knowing which option to use in a given situation can save you money: Emergency room visits can cost far more than urgent care center visits.
Your initial reaction might be to go to the ER when you need medical treatment but can't see your primary care doctor. But in many cases, an urgent care facility will serve you just as well at a lower cost.
Start by keeping a list of nearby ERs and urgent care centers handy. An urgent care visit is good for a minor illness or injury, but if your condition is life-threatening, always go to the ER.
You might also consider going the telemedicine route, which entails talking to a doctor online, rather than going to an in-person appointment.
Telemedicine usage also gained momentumduring the coronavirus pandemic.
Overall, turning to telehealth may not only reduce your healthcare costs - it could save you time and keep you out of the waiting room.
6. Ask If All Tests Are Necessary
You may think that doctor-ordered tests are standard protocol, but those tests could get expensive fast. Be sure to ask your doctor if all diagnostic tests are necessary for your health.
Don't be afraid to ask your doctor if all diagnostic tests are necessary for your health. Here are some questions to get the conversation started.
Why is the test being done?
What steps does the test involve?
How long will it take to get the results?
What will the test cost?
7. Request Outpatient Services When Possible
Did you know that some inpatient procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis? Often, doctors choose to have a procedure performed on an inpatient basis, simply for the convenience of the patient and the medical staff. Many procedures do require a medically supervised period of recovery, but not all of them.
There's nothing wrong with asking your doctor if a procedure can be performed in an outpatient clinic rather than at the hospital. If so, the savings can be significant.
8. Choose Your Doctors Wisely
Just because a physician or facility accepts your health insurance or Medicare plan doesn't mean that your costs will be controlled.
If you're on Medicare, consider these two steps:
First, check if the provider accepts assignment. This means that the provider has agreed to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for services. If your provider doesn't accept assignment, then your out-of-pocket costs may be higher.
Second, choose the right doctor for you. The ideal provider has specialized experience with those age 65 and over, which can save you repeated visits to the doctor. One way to shop around for doctors and specialists is through the physician compare feature on Medicare.gov. You can use this tool to compare providers in your area, or you may opt to discuss the topic with a licensed insurance agent.
In general, researching and shopping around for the right healthcare provider could save you money over time.
9. Use Your Medicare Benefits
It may sound contradictory, but going to the doctor can ultimately lower your healthcare costs.
Most insurance plans, including Medicare Advantage, come with certain wellness benefits. Getting regular physicals and patient-specific tests can uncover minor health problems before they become major ones.
Let's say a man gets a routine PSA blood test done, which reveals the possibility of low-grade prostate cancer. Early intervention makes the treatment cost far less early on, resulting in fewer trips to the doctor and fewer copays. In other words: lower cost.
You Can Save On Healthcare Costs
Bottom line: Don't be afraid to do your research, ask the right questions, and incorporate healthy habits to decrease healthcare costs.
You can also find more tips to avoid medical debt in this article.