| June 7, 2012

Save money on healthcare costs

Medical balances are one of the most costly forms of debt to take on, and mounting health care bills can quickly turn into a financial and credit disaster. Balances for simple procedures can range into the hundreds and thousands, and the costs of prescriptions alone can take a large chunk out of individuals’ monthly income. Because medical bills can impose such a heavy burden on households, it’s important that Americans, especially those with chronic conditions, take advantage of the many options for lowering overall costs.

For example, a simple discussion with their healthcare provider can help save consumers a great deal of money on treatment and prescription options. Individuals may balk at speaking with their doctor about their financial condition. However, explaining that money is tight and the care is too expensive allows doctors to recommend other options. For instance, a physician may switch a patient from a brand name to a generic drug to help keep prescription costs low. In addition, there may be several treatments for the same ailment, some more affordable than others.

Individuals purchasing over-the-counter medications should also compare products at different retail locations. Asking pharmacists about generic options can also be useful. Many retailers with pharmacies, such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid, also have membership programs that are free to sign up for and provide discounts on a weekly or monthly basis for medications, vitamins and other health products.

Another important aspect of keeping costs low is to read all medical bills. Mistakes can occur easily, and it’s crucial to question every charge that appears on a balance. Nearly 80 percent of doctors and hospital bills contain some form of error, Kiplinger reports. If it’s difficult to tell what each charge relates to, don’t be shy about contacting the service provider to dissect the expenses.

Lastly, comparison shop when it comes to hospitals and clinics. Many Americans may not be aware that providers charge different prices for the same service. Making these comparisons can help individuals find service providers that provide both quality care and affordability. In addition, it’s important that consumers know what insurance will and won’t cover, so they can make alternative arrangements or look into payment programs with hospitals. Many hospitals allow patients to enroll in installment programs, which allows them to develop a money management plan for chipping away at their balance.

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