Wouldn’t it be nice if shopping for your best price on health care was as easy as, say, comparing costs for the same pair of socks at two different stores? Unfortunately, that’s one of those “in a perfect world” daydreams. There are so many variables that how much you’d pay for a procedure at one clinic compared to another is never as easy as apples-to-oranges.
That said, there are ways to try to ensure you bring your health care costs down as much as possible.
Buy the right insurance policy.
Whether you purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act or outside the exchange, you can still shop for your coverage, if you’re not covered through your employer. The trick is, be sure to weigh the balance between how much you’d pay and how much coverage you would get
Get the right deductible.
Higher deductibles usually translate into lower premiums and co-pays. If you’re older and/or know you’re going to have to have surgery in the coming year, for instance, it might be worth paying a higher monthly premium to get the lower deductible and co-pays.
Be smart about prescriptions.
If you’re shopping for insurance, find out what the policies you’re looking at will cover and how much your co-pays will be. If you’re paying cash, shop around because one pharmacy might give you a better price than the next. Also, consider a mail-order pharmacy for filling ongoing prescriptions. These services giving you a better overall per-month price for a 90-day supply than you’d get filling the prescription locally one month at a time. Check with your insurance provider, because many contract with a mail-order pharmacy.
Do out-of-office doctor consultations.
Many doctors provide over-the-phone, video or online consultations. Find out if your costs would be less to do so. Many providers let you email or call your physician for more consultations, often at lower or no costs.
Ask if you really, really need that particular test, prescription or appointment.
Seeing a doctor, especially a specialist, or having tests will cost you. And maybe there’s a less costly drug that will deliver the same benefits as the pricey one. With prices going up all the time, your physician will probably understand and work with you if possible.
Try to negotiate your hospital bill.
If you’re hit by a hospital bill that you just can’t afford, find out if you can get help lowering the bill. Many hospitals have foundations that will pick up a portion of the bill for you, based on your income.
Be good about preventive care now to avoid health problems and higher costs down the road. ACA plans provide many free preventive care screenings. You can also take advantage of free screenings at health fairs.