5 Ways to Lower Your Healthcare Costs

As you know, there’s been a long-winded and often messy debate about the price of health care in this country and what to do about it. Well that’s another discussion for another day. But what’s important for you to consider is what you can do about the cost of your health care. Much of it is no doubt out of your hands – you have to live and work with the system we have. The odd thing, of course, is that most people have no idea how expensive health care is because they’re insulated from the actual prices. But you can take certain steps that will help you save:

1. Get generic drugs. Big Pharma spends a lot of money to convince you to that you need to ask your doctor for brand-name, “designer” drugs. They also invest a lot of time and money on the other end of the equation to persuade your doctor to prescribe their pills. But as you probably know, most brand-name drugs have a generic version that will work just as effectively at a fraction of the price. Many pharmacies generic prescriptions priced as low as $4. (I have actually gotten generic antibiotics for free, though I can’t figure out how that worked). Also, know that you can refuse a prescription and ask your doctor for something more affordable.

2. Shop around. When you’re going to spend a sizable amount of money on some purchase or service, you probably shop around to compare prices and make sure you get the best deal for your money. That’s just the wise thing to do, right? But very few people shop around for health care. This is particularly important for those without health insurance or who have a high deductible plan. Why not call around to several doctors and dentists to find out how much they charge? Here’s a resource that might help. You might be surprised to find that there is some variability in the prices.

3. Avoid the emergency room if your life is not in danger. The emergency room of an American hospital is probably the most expensive place in the world to get health care. Most health insurance plans actually charge you a penalty to go (waived if admitted to the hospital) because it is so expensive. Unless it’s really and truly an emergency, find an urgent care center.

4. Raise the deductible on your health insurance. Many people who have health insurance are over-insured. Most people don’t need a “Cadillac” health plan – they need good, catastrophic coverage to protect against major claims. If you want a plan that provides a doctor copay and a drug card, you can still find those plans with higher deductibles. If you’re covered through your employer, you may not have a choice here. But if you buy your own health insurance, you can save a lot of money by getting a higher deductible plan. Then put some of that savings aside for when you have the big claim. (An HSA plan is a great option to consider here.)

5. Consider “alternate dependent coverage.” If you’re on an employer health insurance plan, consider moving your spouse and kids to their own individual policy. Most small businesses pay some if not all of the premiums for their employee, but not for dependent coverage. In many states, assuming your family is healthy, you could save a lot of money by purchasing an individual policy for them. (Obviously we’d love to help you do that.)

Got other suggestions? We’d love to hear them.