Cutting Healthcare Costs
Reduce healthcare costs, stay healthy and net significant savings
The annual healthcare cost for the last four consecutive years in America has been $2.8 trillion, or $8,915 per person, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). And, with rapid advances in healthcare technology we’re likely to live at least 30 years longer than our predecessors – that means paying more in medical costs.
Consolidated Credit has helped over 5 million people get through a financial crisis. Medical bills or high healthcare costs are often reported as part of the problem and can even lead to bankruptcy. So how can you lower the cost of this necessary expense? And how can you avoid credit card debt when unexpected medical costs arise?
Even an ounce of prevention is the best cure
The best way to cut healthcare cost is to stay healthy. Here are some suggestions to help you live a healthy lifestyle so you can avoid high medical costs:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and less fats.
- Exercise. A daily walk in the morning, at lunch, or after dinner can do the trick.
- Engage in healthy extra-curricular activities. Things like tobacco use and high-risk alcohol consumption have been proven to contribute to illness.
- Keep a positive disposition. Studies have shown that optimists are healthier than pessimists and they recover faster from illness. Positive thinking can help bolster your immune system, and give you the energy and drive to take care of yourself.
- Get lots of sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress and reduces productivity. It’s also a leading cause of auto and workplace accidents.
- Be safe. Buckling up in your car and doing things like wearing the proper protective gear when you bike will not only save you a small fortune on medical bills, it will also save a life.
Take advantage of healthcare freebies and discounts
The government usually offers free immunizations, health fairs and health clinics. Find out from your local health department what’s offered in your area.
If you are sick and it’s not an emergency, always visit your primary care physician. Opt for a family practice or internal medicine doctor over an emergency room, a walk-in clinic, or even a specialist as these are usually much more expensive. If you’re paying at the time of the visit, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount on your bill. Use your school’s clinic if you’re a student you may be able to receive free or discounted care on dental services, massages, acupuncture, or other types of health services.
Cut prescription costs and go generic
If your doctor prescribes a drug, ask about a less expensive generic alternative. Generic drugs usually cost pennies on the dollar compared to newer drugs and they often aren’t as tested and proven. Additionally, don’t be shy about asking for free samples, nutritional supplements or over the counter drugs that may be less expensive than medication.
Savings strategies if you’re hospitalized
Get prior authorization from your insurance company for procedures that you are having or you may be stuck with the entire bill even if it’s an emergency. Most insurance companies require a 48-hour notice. Remember use emergency services only if it’s an emergency.
An estimated 75 – 95 percent of hospital bills contain errors, and according to Equifax Services, the average consumer overpays by $1,300. Review your bill carefully, check for errors and dispute them. Question all medications and tests you are receiving and keep notes of what was administered and when.
Get insured and make sense of your health insurance options
While it can be difficult to afford health insurance it can be risky, both financially and health-wise, to go without. Putting off routine medical care may lead to serious and expensive health problems.
President Obama has implemented the Affordable Care Act aimed at making healthcare affordable and protecting consumers from abusive insurance company practices. Find out what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) means for you and your family.
Here’s what you need to know about the ACA:
- You may enroll in a plan that covers essential benefits and even pre-existing conditions.
- Open enrollment is currently underway and continues until March 31st, 2014.
- If you miss the March deadline and are still without health insurance, you will be charged a tax penalty.
- The next enrollment period will run from October 15, 2014 to December 7, 2014, for coverage beginning January 1, 2015.
- Each year, open enrollment will begin on October 15 and end on December 7, for coverage beginning January 1st.
Try the Blues and Medicaid
Blue Cross and Blue Shield are large insurance companies and may offer programs for consumers who can’t get insurance elsewhere. There’s also Medicaid, a program under the Social Security Act that provides medical assistance for certain individuals and families with low incomes and resources.
Is COBRA still valid in the wake of the Affordable Care Act?
If you lose your job and consequently your health insurance, COBRA affords you the right to remain on your employer’s health plan for up to 18 months. However, you will be paying the full premium, plus an administrative fee of two percent. But, the Affordable Care Act may be a cheaper alternative. Because coverage is based on income, you may qualify for lower costs on your monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs.
Consider a Medical Savings Plan
You may want to also consider a medical savings program (“MSA”). This program gives you the benefit of setting money aside for healthcare expenses with valuable tax deductions. Policies are usually available through your employer, as well as to self-employed individuals and groups of one. Seniors can also check the AARP for more details.
Get the most out of your premium and watch out for scams
Before you sign up for a health insurance plan, check it out thoroughly. Read your plan carefully so you understand the cost effective measures you can take. If you don’t understand the policy or procedures, ask the insurance company. It can be useful to come up with a few scenarios to see if you’d be covered. Remember, scammers are always on the prowl. Be sure to file any complaints or grievances against your health insurance company with your state’s insurance department.
Keep you and your wallet healthy.
Medical bills are notorious for causing debt and credit problems. Accidents and illness lead to out-of-budget costs that can often fall through unexpected gaps in your insurance. If medical expenses have you feeling sick and your finances are in critical care, a certified credit counselor may be able to make you well again. Call Consolidated Credit for a free consultation at or request a free Debt & Budget Analysis online.