According to a survey by the National Health Care Trend survey, costs for the most popular types of health care coverage are projected to increase by more than 10% in 2010. National health care expenditures increased from 16.2% of GDP in 2008 to 17.3% in 2009 due to expenditures outpacing GDP growth. With the cost of health care going nowhere but up, here are some ways you can make the most of your health care.
- Stay well
Obviously, health care costs are almost nil if you don’t get sick. What does it take to reduce your risks of costly illness? Unfortunately, I must defer to the advice our doctors tell us during exams: exercise at least three times a week; eat a low-fat, low-carb, low-sodium, high-fiber diet; drink in moderation, and don’t smoke.
- Check out free health care
I went on Google and searched “free eye exams”, “free flu shots”, and “free blood screening”. I was surprised to find that various universities, drug stores, and non-profit organizations offered free services, especially blood screenings. On the first page of Google’s search results, there were free blood screenings for glucose levels, blood pressure, birth defects in pregnant women, and celiac disease, among many others. Going online is worth your time and potentially a big cost saver.
- Read your insurance policy
The lesson about this is: don’t assume what your insurance policy covers and doesn’t cover. Look online or call your insurance company’s hotline if you have to. I cannot personally guarantee what your insurance company covers, but anything that they do cover may require submitting a claim for reimbursement.
- Ask about assignment
Doctors may accept the portion that the health insurance company pays as full payment for your bill. Does your doctor take assignment? Ask them.
- Scrutinize your hospital bills
Have you ever been under the microscope and hot lights of the IRS? Neither have I, but if you want to stretch your health care dollar, look over your hospital bill very carefully. Why? If you are having surgery, for example, items are placed in the operating room just in case the doctor needs them. However, following the procedure, you may be billed for the items the doctor didn’t use. Therefore, once you shake off the anesthesia, talk to the surgeon and ask if they used all the equipment and supplies you were billed for. Call the hospital billing department and ask for a bill reduction if you find any discrepancies.
- Avoid emergency rooms
Life-savers in true emergencies, but a financial drain during a nonemergency in which you could be billed up to ten times more than for the same treatment at your doctor’s office. If you can, call your doctor instead and ask for a prescription or home remedy that can save that trip to the emergency room.
- Talk to your pharmacist
Pharmacists can help you find ways to cut prescription costs. For example, if you buy a 90-day supply of your medication instead of three 30-day supplies, you may be able to pay just one co-payment instead of three.
- Mail-order prescriptions
A prescription usually takes 2-3 weeks to be processed. Some mail-order firms deal only with patients belonging to specific insurance plans, but a few places sell directly to the general public such as 1-800-Pharmacy and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
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