What’s your health coverage doing for you? You pay monthly premiums to your insurance company to help cover those high medical bills. Only to receive those doctor bills back with hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars. When it comes to paying out of pocket, you need to know what you’re up against and back it up with savings.
If you aren’t on a high-deductible health plan, odds are good that someone close to you is.
Don’t have a high deductible? You could still end up on the hook for your care if you need an uncovered procedure, want an elective service, or had a claim denied. No matter the reason, paying out-of-pocket for medical expenses is tough. It can make every test, doctor’s appointment, and routine procedure feel like a financial balancing act.
Too many of us try to save money by skipping care, which is a dangerous gamble. Putting off care can lead to even more costly emergency treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions.
What many people don’t realize is that there are financially savvy ways to navigate the process and save money along the way. Our mission at MDsave is to make healthcare accessible to everyone by changing the way we shop for care, so we’re here to let you in on some industry secrets.
1. Take Advantage of Covered Preventive Care
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we can’t say this enough: don’t put off your preventive care. Even non-urgent issues can become emergencies if left untreated, which will be much more expensive in the end.
Insurance companies have long recognized the importance of preventive care in saving money – both for payers and patients. It’s in their best interest to make sure you get your yearly cholesterol screening, because that’s much cheaper than an ER visit for a heart attack.
Check your benefits plan for covered preventive services. You may be surprised by what your insurer will cover at no additional cost to you.
2. Before Your Appointment: Shop and Compare (yes, really)
The days of hidden healthcare costs are gone. Now, savvy shoppers have options to find out what their procedures cost before booking the appointment, thanks to the internet. Get ready to Google! You have choices when researching good deals in your local areas:
Online Healthcare Marketplaces
Online healthcare marketplaces (like MDsave) show you the complete price upfront for your procedure, including the most commonly related fees, and let you buy your procedure beforehand, so all you need at the doctor’s office is a voucher. It’s just like booking a flight online.
An important feature of online healthcare marketplaces is that they bundle all the parts of your service into one price. You can’t know if you can afford something if you only see one part of the total cost. Even something as simple as an x-ray is going to have multiple fees for the scan and the radiologist’s interpretation.
Try Healthcare Bluebook to find out fair prices in your city or state. You can use these numbers to help you negotiate fair self-pay rates. Be sure to double-check the Fair Price Fee Details to see if the price listed includes fees for any of the related services.
3. At Your Appointment: Ask Questions and Negotiate
Most providers are willing to offer lower prices to cash payers and avoid the headache of insurance claims. After all, they’d rather get paid what you can afford than not get paid at all! Let your doctor’s office know that you’re paying out of pocket when you arrive for your appointment, and ask for a self-pay or cash-pay price. If it’s more than you can pay in one go, ask about monthly payment plans.
4. After Your Appointment: Embrace Pharmacy Tools and Generics Check out GoodRx before you fill your next prescription. They show you the price of the same medicine at different pharmacies in your area, so you don’t have to pay more for the same drug. GoodRx also offers coupons and includes information on manufacturer assistance programs where applicable.
Also consider getting the generic version of your prescription. Your doctor will specify if you need a name brand – otherwise, you can save money by going generic. Generics are cheaper for you and your insurer, and many insurance companies will cover more of the cost of a generic than a name brand
5. Take Advantage of Tax-Sheltered Savings Accounts
If you are offered a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flex Savings Account (FSA) with your health plan, these are a good opportunity to put money aside for your healthcare, completely tax-free. Many companies will match your HSA or FSA contribution from your paycheck up to a certain point, so don’t leave free money on the table.
Be sure you know whether you have an HSA or FSA, and keep track of the money in that account: while HSA funds can roll over into the next year, FSA funds tend to be use-it-or-lose-it.