Tricks to Save Money on Health Care Costs

Posted by Don on October 18, 2016

I’ve dealt with a decent amount of medical bills so far this year, and it should come as no surprise that medical treatment is expensive! (And don’t get me started on the confusing statements I get that talk about the cost, covered amounts, co-insurance, and everything in between.)

Tricks to Save Money on Health Care Costs

Because of the costs, I’ve started looking for ways to try to keep my health care expenses in check. The following are some of the steps I am taking and hopefully you can use some of them as well to save some money when it comes to health care.

health care costs

Cram Procedures into the Same Year When Meeting Your Deductible

If you have a high deductible plan, there is a certain amount that you pay out of pocket 100%, then a reduced amount and then finally nothing. If you have an expensive procedure in one year, it might make sense to move your other visits, tests and procedures into the same year so that you can save some money.

Now there are two caveats to doing this. First, be sure it is OK to move visits/tests/procedures around like this. Your health is much more important than taking unnecessary risks just to save a few bucks.

But if you need to see the dentist and you need x-rays, or worse – like have a cavity filled – then by all means get it done now so you can save some money.

The second note is to know when your plan year is. Most insurance plans don’t run on a calendar year but rather a fiscal year. Our plan runs from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. I learned this the hard way a few years ago.

Take Health Assessments

Many insurers are now offering a discount if you take a health assessment. We received a discount on our monthly premiums for this. It was really easy, so easy we did it at home.

All we did was answer a few questions about our lifestyle and then provide our height, weight, waist and hip measurements, etc. We also had to prick our finger and send in a small blood sample so they could verify our cholesterol.

Some might scoff at doing this, but for us, saving 15% a month on our premiums was worth it.

Check for Discounts

Many insurers also offer various discounts. A common one is a gym membership. Join a gym and go a certain number of times in a year and you can get a discount.

When I was with a previous employer I took advantage of this to get a $150 rebate from my insurer. The kicker was that I got an incredible deal from the gym that year and my annual gym membership was just $125, so I ended up “making” money.

Another benefit they offered was a $25 rebate on a new bike helmet. As a mountain biker, I’ve cracked a few helmets and like child car seats, one crack and it’s done. The rebate helped to offset my out of pocket cost.

Today, some insurers are offering free fitness trackers to members. If you can attain a certain number of daily steps, you can earn a discount.

Shop Around for Procedures

Another big way to save money on health insurance costs is to shop around. Not with the insurance providers but rather with the services you need. Surprisingly, an MRI at a hospital costs a different amount than if you go to the clinic.

Be sure to ask the hospital or the clinic the cost they charge and then call up some other facilities. You may be surprised at just how much the price varies. In fact, a co-workers wife needed an MRI and the hospital was charging twice as much as the local clinic.

Again, as with the earlier point about saving money, don’t pick the subpar clinic just because they offer the best deal. Make sure they are just as qualified to perform the procedure when deciding where to go.

Furthermore, when it comes to dental care, see if there are any dental schools in your area. Many of them take patients so that the students can work on a real person. Before you say no to this, most (if not all) dental schools have an instructor watching over so you can rest easy knowing that it will be a job well done.

Be Conscious of Costs

Finally, I just want to make note once more to not make cost the sole factor when making your choices on health care. For example, my mother is on medication and switched her prescription to Walmart to save money. The monthly cost was close to 60% less at Walmart than at the pharmacy where she had been getting the prescription filled.

A few weeks after making the switch, she started getting lightheaded and nauseous in the morning. She couldn’t figure it out. Finally, she thought about the drugs. She stopped taking them for a few days (it wasn’t a medication that would cause major issues if she stopped for a few days) and the nausea and lightheadedness went away. It turns out it was a bad batch of drugs from India.

I’m not suggesting you avoid Walmart here, I am just showing you that in some cases, you are better off paying more for health care. Don’t just assume the two things you are comparing are equivalent and the only difference is the cost. Many times there are other factors at play.

Final Thoughts

In the end, there are many ways you can save money on health care costs. The easiest thing to do is call or email your benefits department at work and ask what discounts your health plan offers. Odds are they will offer a few for you to take advantage of.

Once you know what they are, you can assess which one or ones you want to incorporate to start saving some money. From there, shop around for tests/procedures and lump them together into a year so that you can save even more money.

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