One of the most expensive line items in a lot of people's budgets is the health care category. Whether you've got a lot of health issues and just end up paying a lot of money, or if you have high ticket health care insurance, the costs can be quite high. Because the costs are already high, it's important to make sure that you don't end up paying even more than you have to by making sure you do a few common sense things.
A week ago we had our first child, and as a part of that process we'll end up paying several thousand dollars for the delivery, hospital stay, and our small son's stay in the infant intensive care unit. Even though it's been expensive, we have done things in order to keep the costs down.
How To Keep Your Medical Costs Lower
Here are a few things we have done in order to keep our costs to a manageable level (and a few we haven't done). Some of the tips may seem to be common sense, but unfortunately not everyone does them anyway.
- Get health insurance: Make sure you have health insurance and that it will cover the costs of your baby being delivered – or whatever procedure you are having done. Find out what things are covered, and what are not. Paying for health insurance may stink, but it's better than the alternative – paying tens of thousands of dollars more in hospital costs.
- Find out what things are covered: One tip we have taken advantage of this time is to make sure that everything we are using our insurance for is covered. For example, we found out that sometimes circumcision is only covered if it is done at the hospital. We also found that certain things like a breast pump may not be covered unless you have a prescription from a doctor showing medical necessity. Figure out the things you need or need done, and do them the way your insurance requires.
- Ask for a discount: When paying for your medical care you can often get a substantial discount on your bill just by asking and offering to pay your bill up front in cash. We haven't done that yet this time, but in the past we've saved hundreds of dollars by doing this.
- Research local hospitals to find the best price: Find the best price on your health care, especially if you're uninsured. Do some research at sites like healthcarebluebook.com to find the best price on your procedure in your area. Prices for the procedure can vary by thousands of dollars depending on where you get it!
- Take advantage of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA): If your employer has a flex spending plan available take advantage. It will allow you to spend pre-tax dollars on eligible medical and health items. Things like prescriptions, medicine and band aids are eligible. Our contributions to our plan mean we can do up to $3000 in pre-tax spending this year.
- Use generic drugs when possible: Sometimes after you've been in the hospital you end up having to get prescripti0ns afterwards. Quite often it can be cheaper for you to buy the generic version of drugs instead of the brand name. This won't always save if your health insurance has the same co-pay for all drugs.
- Get free samples: Sometimes if you are only taking a short course of a drug, your doctor can give you some free samples to cover it. I did this one time for a drug i had to take for a few days, and ended up not having to pay for it.
- Take advantage of free services: Sometimes hospitals and insurance companies will offer free benefits to you that save them money in the end, but can still be beneficial for you. For example, we took advantage of a free home care visit by a nurse that helped us to get questions we had about the baby answered. It ended up saving us a visit to the pediatrician – and a copay.
- Steer clear of the emergency room unless necessary: The reason? It is expensive. Of course if your child is very sick – by all means take them in, but if it can wait a few hours, take them to your normal doctor's office. It will be a lot cheaper.
- Use a “minute clinic” for routine visits: If you have a local minute clinic you can use to get your shots/etc, it often ends up being more affordable.
So those are a few of the things we're doing to help keep our costs lower.
What things do you do in order to keep your health care costs lower? Give us your tips, trick and hints in the comments!