Sinking into the couch at the end of a crazy day felt satisfying. It was nice to finally get off my feet after helping the kids finish their school projects and getting home late from a baseball game.
And that’s when our two year old fell and hit his head. Not long after, he began throwing up…and that meant a trip to the ER.
How to Save on High Healthcare Costs
Many times, we can’t anticipate what kind of health trouble will pop up. We don’t know when it will happen or what it will look like. But there are still ways we can prepare ourselves to handle the bills. After all, when you’re worried about your health, money should be the last thing on your mind.
This post has been written by our talented writer, Jamie Jeffers. Enjoy!
The long list of acronyms in the healthcare industry can be confusing. FSA stands for flexible spending account. It allows you to drop money from your paycheck into a dedicated account, tax free. This is great for those of us who spend quite a bit of money on copays and prescriptions, but never spend quite enough to qualify for the tax deduction at income tax time.
Not just anyone can open an FSA, so you’ll need to ask if your company offers this perk. You should also know that any money you put into an FSA is “use it or lose it”. The FSA company will ask you to verify purchases from time to time, but this is often easily done via your healthcare EOBs.
My advice? If you often have medical bills, estimate how much you’ll spend on healthcare costs and put less than that into an FSA. Next year, you can tweak it according to how you spent this year. Put off purchases like glasses or elective procedures until December so you can use up any extra money in the account.
Re-examine Insurance Options
Change is not comfortable. It’s easy to continue using the same healthcare plan you’ve had since you began your career. But it could be costing you a fortune.
For a long time, changing from a traditional healthcare plan to an HSA scared me. But this year, we made the switch and haven’t looked back.
An HSA is a health savings account. It differs from an FSA in that your money stays in the account until you need it. It can build up for years if you can avoid health complications. Find out if your company offers perks such as matching funds in your HSA. Also check out any calculators your company offers to help you make the decision.
If all of the health care plan options seem out of reach, you might want to investigate a “health share company”. These are groups of people who share each other’s’ medical expenses to help offset costs. You can read about one user’s experience here. Be aware that this is not the same thing as having insurance, but can be a good option for some.
Buy Your Own Equipment
It should go without saying that this is in no way medical advice. I am not at all telling you to diagnose yourself. You might have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but you’re still no doctor. (Wink, wink.)
That said, I suggest you have a talk with your doctor. If you have ongoing medical problems, it can be well worth investing in some of your own medical equipment. Your doctor can advise you on what to watch for, and you can make a more informed judgement on when it’s time to make an appointment.
Our entire family has asthma. I’ve had it myself since I was 4. I have a pretty good idea of when we need to see the doctor, and when I can treat it myself. We own a nebulizer and a pulse oximeter. That helps me treat what I can at home. It also helps me to know when to seek more help.
It’s certainly saved us a small fortune in doctor’s visits and runs to the ER over the years.
You might consider investing in a blood pressure cuff and asking your doctor to teach you to take your own blood pressure readings. Or maybe your child gets several ear infections every year, and you’re tired of guessing. Ask your doctor if it would be a good idea to purchase a otoscope and see if she can teach you how to use it.
If your doctor is hesitant, listen to them. And always err on the side of caution.
Most of us compare prices before we make big purchase. But when it comes to health, we often follow the exact road the doctor recommends. As far as health advice goes, that’s probably wise. But do you really have to use the lab at the hospital?
Yes, it’s convenient. But it may not be the best option. If your copay is the same no matter where you go, you might not be concerned about cost. But if you are footing a portion of the bill yourself, it’s a good idea to compare prices from one hospital to another.
Explore other options for tests such as MRI and lab work. You may find someone who will do the job at a better price, especially if you offer to pay upfront.
Diet, Exercise, Prevention
If you hate the thought of worrying about diet and exercise, maybe you’re overthinking it. We often consider “diet” and “exercise” big events. They require a new set of clothing and shopping only in the produce section of the grocery store. It doesn’t have to be that way.
New studies show that even taking a brisk walk can do wonders for boosting your health. Combine that with running local errands or visiting a friend to fit it into your day.
And as for diet, that doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think. Rather than reading every label or restricting yourself to 500 calories per day, change the way you think. According to the University of California, you’re better off monitoring your stress levels and using one of 5 techniques to change the way you handle it.
How many times have you eaten out of emotion, stress, or habit rather than hunger?
Ask for a Discount
Typically, we get a bill and automatically reach for our wallets. Most of us won’t bother to ask for a discount. But if you try it, you’d be surprised at how often this works.
Our prescription costs skyrocketed this year. When I was told the price of my son’s medicine, my mouth dropped. As I stood there awkwardly, the guy behind the counter asked if I had looked up any discounts for the drug.
He told me that many companies offer cards and programs to help patients afford their medications. A simple Google search saved me $100.
If Google doesn’t help you, ask the pharmacy if they know of any discount programs. And your doctor may be able to give you free samples of medications to help, too.
Speaking of discounts, always ask about discounts for doctor or hospital bills. Many offer steep discounts when you pay upfront. They can also forgive parts of your bill if you qualify.
Follow these suggestions to reign in those medical bills.
The next time you are surprised with a health issue, you can focus on getting better rather than paying the bill.
How do you keep down your healthcare costs?