Even if you have insurance, the cost of medical care can be overwhelming. Many insurance plans come with high premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, and the costs only keep rising. Is there anything you can do to get your healthcare costs under control? The answer is yes! In this blog post we’ll discuss money-savvy ways to handle three areas that can hit your wallet the hardest: prescription drugs; scans, tests, and labwork; and visits to the emergency room.
At the Pharmacy
Hundreds of excellent over-the-counter medications exist at your local drugstore, but when it comes to certain health issues, chronic conditions, or serious illnesses, it’s time to bring out the big guns. When prescription medications are a must, follow these tips to save your health while saving you cash:
– Use GoodRx, GeniusRx, or SingleCare to save on expensive prescription drugs. Don’t hesitate to use the app while in the doctor’s office, and ask for an alternate drug if the price is high.
– Many pharmacies (including those located in grocery stores) offer free or deeply discounted prescriptions. Do your research, and work with your doctor to call in any eligible prescriptions to the pharmacy that will give you the best price.
– At the pharmacy, always ask for three price quotes on your drugs: cash price, insurance price and the GoodRx price. It can make a huge difference in your out-of-pocket cost.
– Order a 90-day supply, which can be cheaper, and consider ordering online.
– Contact the drug manufacturer on the phone or online. Often you can sign up for programs to get your prescriptions at a reduced cost, or even free. This is very common with high dollar prescriptions (like the ones you see on TV commercials).
– Don’t be shy: ask for samples, and not just when you are prescribed the medication for the first time. Call your nurse to ask whether the drug rep can leave extras; even having 6 months covered will be a huge help to your budget.
– Don’t forget about pharmacists; they offer a wealth of information.
PRO TIP: GoodRx is great for pet medications, too!
Diagnostic Tests, Labwork, and Scans
If you’re feeling low on energy, are pregnant, or think you MAY have suffered a stress fracture from running off too much steam, your doctor will likely order diagnostic tests, labwork, or scans. Before you groan at the thought of the cost, take a look at these suggestions–and take care of yourself!
– Think twice before you head to the hospital or a hospital-based outpatient center to handle diagnostic tests or scans, and instead request to have these procedures done at an independent clinical lab or freestanding image center. Not only are they convenient, but these free-standing centers will greatly reduce the total cost of care and your out-of-pocket expense for the same services. (For example, having an MRI scan done at a free-standing facility can cost up to 75% less than at a hospital.)
– For tests such as urinalysis, blood tests, or Pap tests, if your doctor does not do lab work in-house, again, request to go to the lab facility–not the hospital.
PRO TIP: Outpatient surgeries are also cheaper in a freestanding facility than in a hospital.
Should you go to the Emergency Room?
When an unexpected health issue happens to you or someone you love, you may feel worried enough to head straight to the hospital. Be warned, however: although it may feel like an emergency doesn’t mean the E.R. (and your insurance company) will consider it as such–and the cost may be more shocking than the injury itself. Follow this advice, and save yourself a bundle.
First, let’s clarify situations that demand a call to 911:
- Shortness of breath, choking, severe allergic reactions with swelling or difficulty breathing
- Seizures, unconsciousness, head injuries with passing out, fainting, or confusion, or a stroke
- Injuries to head, neck, or spine, numbness, or the inability to move
- Electric shock, lightning strike, severe burns
- Severe and/or sudden pain of any kind, including chest pain or pressure, headache, pain in the arm or jaw
- Smoke or poisonous fumes inhalation
- Heavy bleeding, compound fractures, deep wounds, or vomiting or coughing up blood.
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Poisoning, drug or alcohol overdose, or suicidal thoughts
When a situation is as dire as those listed above, going to the E. R. could be a matter of life and death. However, studies show that around 30% of emergency room visits were avoidable, and for less critical illnesses, a trip to the E.R. may prove to be slow, inefficient, and costly. Additionally, fees may be added for lab work, or the services of an out-of-network doctor.
If an unexpected health issue should arise, help can still be on the way. Try these alternatives first:
- After-hours walk-in clinic
- Urgent Care Center
- Minute Clinics inside the drug store or supermarket
- TeleDoc or other virtual doctors
PRO TIP: For the underinsured or uninsured, a searchable list of available health centers can be found through the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.
Final thoughts: Medical Bills
Your medical bill has arrived, and the damage is done. Or is it? Good news: it’s not too late to control your medical costs after you’ve received your bill. Read through these recommendations that may keep money in your checking account:
– Always examine your bill carefully. Did you receive what you are being charged for?
– If you have to pay out-of-pocket for a surgical procedure that is covered by insurance, put a reminder on your calendar to make sure you’ve received reimbursement in a few weeks.
– Never pay a bill until you’ve received your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance company. Often providers bill patients faster than the insurance company can process and pay the claim.
– If the bill appears incorrect or doesn’t match your EOB, start making calls. Contact your insurance company for more details, or call the billing department at the doctor’s office. If the amount is correct and you are unable to pay, ask to negotiate; medical bills are always negotiable.
You are Your Best Advocate, and We Can Help
You may have little control over premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, but by getting involved you can manage your healthcare costs. Be your own advocate when it comes to securing the lowest prices on medications, deciding where to have scans, tests, and labwork, and researching the best places to go when a medical crisis occurs. Take the time to review your medical bills, and don’t be afraid to have conversations with drug companies, your doctor and nurse, or your insurance carrier. Our motto is, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no!
At 3to99, we believe people matter. We’ve built our business helping companies and individuals make smart decisions when it comes to their healthcare and insurance, and we’d love to do the same for you. Interested in starting a Health Savings Account (HSA)? Wondering if you should invest in life insurance? Growing your business and need to stay on top of your employee benefits? Contact us today.