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Life and Health


By May 1, 2009No Comments

Word on the street is that health care reform is on the way, but medical costs are still phenomenally high at the moment. Health care spending in the U.S. reached a whopping $2.4 trillion in 2008, according to the National Coalition on Health Care. Unless you and your family members all happen to be incredibly healthy folks, you’ve probably felt the financial impact of ever-rising medical expenses. These days, all it takes is one trip to the emergency room or a visit to a medical specialist — and suddenly your mailbox is flooded with medical bills. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can cut down on your annual health care costs. Here are ten medical bill slashing tips that could save you a boatload of money:

  1. Find a primary care physician: In this day and age, many patients simply stop by the local urgent care center when they aren’t feeling well. These centers are fast, convenient and affordable. Although going to a primary physician might seem passé, it’s still important to develop a relationship with a doctor you know and trust. Because a primary care physician takes time to get to know you and your medical history, they are more likely to diagnose you correctly and make well-educated decisions about your overall health — which could save you time and money in the long run.
  2. Save on prescriptions: Ask your doctor to prescribe you generic drugs instead of costly brand-name drugs whenever possible. Most health insurance companies charge lower co-pays for generic drugs. You could reduce your prescription costs by $10 to $40 per medication.
  3. Avoid the emergency room: Don’t go to the emergency room unless you actually have a medical emergency. Find out if your physician or pediatrician provides after-hours services or ask if they can recommend an urgent care center. This could save you a trip to the hospital and a great deal of money. Figure out which hospitals are in your health care network and keep the address and phone number on hand. Study your plan’s rules about ambulance services and emergency room co-pays. If an emergency does arise and you’re not sure what to do, call the 24-hour emergency help line number located on the back of your insurance card.
  4. Cut back on specialist visits: Go to your primary care physician before you make an appointment with a specialist. Your regular doctor might be able to help you with your medical problem without a costly visit to a specialist.
  5. Stay healthy: If you quit smoking, keep your weight at a healthy level, exercise regularly, take prescribed medications and get regular check-ups, you’ll save untold amounts money in the long-run on health care expenses. Plus, healthy lifestyle changes can help you keep chronic diseases under control, which means you won’t have to pay as much for costly treatments and prescriptions.
  6. Review your meds: Discuss your regular medications with your primary care doctor every so often. Talk about how long you’ve been taking the prescription, whether it’s working or not and what negative side effects it might have. You and your doctor might decide you no longer need the medication.
  7. Question expensive testing: If your doctor says you need to get an MRI, a CT scan or another costly test, ask if the test is absolutely necessary. Sometimes these tests lead to nothing more than hefty medical bills.
  8. Don’t fall for the drug hype: Every time you turn on the TV there’s a flashy new ad for the latest “miracle” drug. Don’t get caught up in the hype. Although some of these newly released drugs might have a few advantages over their older counterparts, the new meds are often much more expensive. Talk to your primary care physician about whether it’s worth it to make the switch.
  9. Don’t go crazy with screening tests: Some screening tests are important because they can catch a disease in the earliest stages. However, you can easily get carried away with screening tests. Oftentimes, these tests lead to false alarms and unnecessary treatments. Try to stick with just the screening tests your doctor recommends based on your medical history.
  10. Give it some time: Obviously some medical problems require immediate treatment. For example, if you think you’re suffering from a stroke or heart attack, get medical attention immediately. On the other hand, if you’re just feeling a little under the weather or having minor aches or pains in your joints, you probably shouldn’t rush to the doctor. Give yourself some time and see if your body can handle it without the help of medication. However, if these symptoms persist for a week or longer, you might want to see your doctor.