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Cutting Your Medical Costs

Posted Apr 09 2009 7:12pm

Today’s Wall Street Journal shares some helpful tips on how you can cut your medical costs.    Many of these tips have been mentioned in earlier posts on this blog, but this information is important enough to repeat once again.   These tips can actually help make a difference in making your health care dollars go further.   I am an advocate of consumers taking control of their health care, including making informed choices, shopping around for the best value and doing your research – before visiting a provider.  

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For the full article, read Financial Prescriptions:  Seven tips for cutting your medical costs.


1.   Find the right health insurance plan for you and your family.   You need to know what your health plan covers, what’s not included and what your maximum out-of-pocket expenses are.    Read the fine print very carefully.   Consider looking into CDHPs with high-deductibles.   A high-deductible health plan can seem daunting, but when you understand and take into account all your costs including premiums, co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance fees, you can actually come out ahead with a high-deductible plan.


2.   Shop around for the best care.   Consumers are expected to compare quality and prices for providers and services, but this sometimes is easier said than done.   Comparison shopping is possible to accomplish, but you need a lot of patience and persistence and to be resourceful.   Keep a spreadsheet of providers, prices, inclusions and start making those phone calls.   Call your providers.   Call your health plan.   Make sure you contact your health insurer, potential providers, their competitors, and hospitals --to determine your out-of-pocket expenses for specific procedures.   Be sure to take advantage of websites that publish prices for consumers including,,, and of course,    For a more complete list of websites that provide pricing, visit Tools For Consumers to Look-up Prices.  


3.   Take control of your treatment.  You are your own best advocate for your health.   Take an interest, ask the provider questions, bring along another person for a second set of ears, seek a second opinion, and be sure to research the provider before services are performed.  


4.   Take care of hospital bills.   Don’t pay providers directly until you receive the EOB from your health plan.   When you receive the bill, make sure you scrutinize the bill for errors.   If you are uninsured and paying cash, make sure you negotiate with the provider to receive a 50% discount from the list price or 125% of the rate Medicare would pay for this service.   By the way, you can easily look up Medicare payment amounts on this public website    


5.   Manage your medications.   Always make sure your primary care provider knows about all the medications you might be taking because it may not be necessary to take all the medicine being prescribed.    Some medications might be a version of the same medication, or cause harm when taken together.   Inquire with your doctor about using less expensive generics.    Look into mail-order pharmacies and comparison shop for drugs using the Consumer Reports website.  


6.   Focus on prevention.  Being healthy is definitely less expensive.   Simple changes like eating healthy, exercising daily, get enough sleep at night can make a tremendous improvement in your overall health.


7.   Be careful about skipping care.   When money is tight, many people cut health care spending and this can sometimes result in more expensive care later as the condition progresses.   Some procedures can be postponed.   Instead of skipping preventative care, you should look into more affordable options like retail clinics, local community screenings, immunizations and urgent health care centers (rather than emergency room visits.)



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