The swine flu epidemic is stealing the headlines. But perhaps the bigger health story underneath any epidemic is how many more people may need medical care, and what that can do to our already inflated health care costs. Here are 10 tips for saving some money without sacrificing good care.
By Colette Bouchez
While everyone is concerned with cutting spending, with a flu pandemic eminent this is clearly not the time to skimp on health care. In fact, if expert predictions about this flu are right, many of us may find ourselves having to budget in some unexpected health care costs in the very near future - even if that only involves preventive care.
If you do find yourself in health care cost turmoil over the next several weeks or months, here are some money-saving tips that help you save some green and stay in the pink. 1. Negotiate Smart – A 2005 Harris poll showed 3 out 5 folks who bargained with their out of network doctor got a lower price for their treatment. But to bargain more effectively try this:
* Ask your doc tor for the CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) billing code for your procedure. ( It’s what insurance companies and hospitals use to set a charge). * Call your insurance company and find out what they pay a network doc for this same procedure . Also check what Medicare and Medicaid pays. * Then ask your doctor if he or she will accept that amount.
2. Make Your Case for Out of Network Care - If you’re choosing an out-of-network doctor because he/she has a vast amount of experience treating your health problem, or special skills that could ultimately save you future health care costs, tell your insurance company. If you can prove the skills of your out-of-network doc will save them big bucks in the long run, they just might pick up the tab.
3. If you go network – go all the way. Everyone knows that choosing an in-network doctor will save you money. To save more, find if the anesthesiologist, radiologist, or other s involved in your care are also in- network. If they aren’t, call your insurance company , for names of those affiliated with the hospital or center where you will have your procedure. Then talk to your doctor about getting those folks on your care team.
4. Double Up On Your Healthcare. If you need to go out of network or have a high deductible, try to get chronic care check ups from a single doctor visit. For example, if you need a Pap smear ask your gynecologist to check your cholesterol , blood pressure even blood sugar, thereby saving you an extra doctor visit.
5. Brown Bag It! If you need a hospital procedure and will be staying more than a day, bring your own self-care incidentals – like toothpaste, shampoo or soaps. Also ask if you can bring some of your own medications such as aspirins or any drugs you take for a chronic condition. Your own is bound to cost less than what the hospital will charge you for a few pills.
6. Health care Teamwork - If you and your partner each have a health insurance plan at work, check where coverage overlaps. Then reduce costs by having one of you opt for a lower priced plan, or even cancel one plan completely.
7. Single Parents Rejoice! You can save big on individual vs family plans by checking out the State Children’s Health Insurance Program ( SCHIP) . Most offer very low cost or even free insurance for children under 18 – meaning you can drop that pricey family plan at work. For more info call the nationwide toll free line 877-KIDSNow. Or visit www.InsureKidsNow.gov.
8. Split The Pill! Most drugs cost the relatively the same for a higher or a lower dose. So ask your pharmacist if a pill can be safely cut in two and if so, ask your doctor to prescribe a higher dose and then split the pill yourself. If it’s not safe to split a pill (some don’t work as well when cut) ask your doctor a prescribing higher dose you take once a day instead of a lower one several times a day.
9. Keep A Symptom Diary. If you’re not sure if that ache or pain really requires a doctor visit? Keep a record of symptoms while you decide - including when the symptom started, how long it lasts, what makes it worse –or better. If you do see your doctor, having this information could make save you a bundle in unnecessary diagnostic tests or procedures.
10. Shop Around. When purchasing medicine look to Big Box stores or non-chain drugstore first. Surveys show both offer lower prices than most chain pharmacies. To save more investigate free prescription drug programs. Some are state or federally funded, others supported by drug manufacturers. Here’s some places to start: