How to Save on Healthcare Costs

Most everyone is looking for ways to cut down on costs whenever they can. There are ways to save on your healthcare expenses, too. Becoming familiar with your healthcare options may help keep you and your family healthier without breaking the bank.

Choose the right level of care
When you need care, knowing your options can help save you time and money. When you choose the right level of care for your situation, it helps keep healthcare costs down and affordable for everyone.

Below are some costs options (from lowest to highest):

  • $$ -- Retail health clinic: For common minor illnesses, a retail health clinic may be an excellent choice for faster, cheaper and more convenient care. The average costs is about half of the cost of a traditional office visit. Search for these in pharmacies, discount stores and grocery stores.
  • $$$ -- Doctor's office: Offers a wide variety of services from routine checkups to the diagnosis of a health condition.
  • $$$$ -- Urgent/after-hours center: These types of facilities handle many problems that can be treated in a doctor's office but is also sometimes available during non-business hours. They also offer some services not generally found in a doctor's office such as X-rays and minor trauma rooms.
  • $$$$$ -- Emergency room: This should only be used for the most serious, life-threatening conditions as it is the most expensive type of care.

Take advantage of resources to shop for care
The more you know about things like quality, safety, services and costs, the easier it is for you to choose wisely when it comes to the care that's right for you.

Higher costs don't necessarily mean higher quality. High-value care is what's important when looking at healthcare. You can find care that's high quality and high value using online tools and resources.

Below are some trusted sites that can help you get the information you need when it comes to high-quality, high-value care.

Government/Business Sites:
Hospital Compare: This tool from Medicare provides information about a facility's quality of care based on patient surveys and allows you to view specific information and ratings based on certain medical conditions or surgical procedures.

The Leapfrog Group: This online source provides you with quality reports for many hospitals nationwide and helps you reap the benefits of making smart, informed healthcare decisions.

Other Tools:
Blue Distinction Centers®: You can compare the quality, and cost where available, of specific facilities (primarily hospitals) for common medical procedures, such as childbirths, tonsil removal, hip replacement, knee surgery, MRIs and colonoscopies. Online community provides straightforward, real world information (from people just like you) to help you make smart, informed healthcare decisions.

Hospital Compare is a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Make healthier lifestyle choices. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and keep stress to a minimum.

Practice prevention. Get regular physical and dental check-ups, schedule recommended health screening tests and get your annual flu shot.  

Take an active role in your care. Choose a primary care doctor to coordinate your care, and take time to build a good relationship with your doctor.  

Keep the word "emergency" in emergency room. Seek help at an emergency room for deep wounds, chest pain, severe burns or serious trauma. If possible, visit an after-hours clinic or wait to see your own doctor.  

Don't insist on an office visit or antibiotic prescription for a common cold.

Ask why tests and treatments are being done, if they are really necessary and what your options are.  

Carefully review your doctor and hospital bills. Be on the lookout for duplicate billings, inaccurate dates and charges for supplies, medications or tests that you didn't receive.  

Discuss prescription medications with your doctor. Ask if a generic drug or over-the-counter medication is appropriate for your condition.  

Request samples when trying a new medication.  

Avoid overuse of antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one third of the 150 million outpatient prescriptions for antibiotics written each year in the United States are unnecessary.  

Take your medication as directed. Keep taking it and finish the prescription even if you feel better.  

How to plan your healthcare $
In considering what plan is appropriate for you, spend some time reviewing medical care you have received for the past few years. Use this amount to "estimate" your total costs for the year under the new plan. Add up your premium, anticipated deductible payments, coinsurance, copays and other out-of-pocket expenses to make sure you can afford these costs.

In addition, you'll want to think about the other services provided by the health insurance plan and the total value of the plan. 

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