10 Tips to Stretch That Health Care Dollar

Please don’t cheap out on your health, it just isn’t worth it, and it just isn’t wise. But you can be much more cost-conscious about how your health dollars are spent. Health care costs are projected to rise at twice the inflation rate, so here are 10 tips to help stretch your health care dollar.

Stretch Your Health Care Dollars

1. Take good care of yourself on the front end!

Eat healthy, well-balanced, colorful meals. Exercise regularly and get plenty of rest. All these are common sense items, but they are the first steps to avoiding having to spend those health care dollars in the first place.

2. Stay in your insurer’s preferred system of providers.

Only use doctors, hospitals, specialists, and other health care providers inside your insurer’s network unless it’s an emergency. This one decision could save you thousands of dollars in medical bills, since your in-system providers are reimbursed to you at higher rates than out-of-system providers. Visit a non-system provider for a non-emergency and you’ll probably need a defibrillator. But if you have a real emergency, use whatever health care provider you can get to first.

3. Haggle on those prices.

Just a couple of decades ago, doctors might be paid with livestock or garden vegetables, but while you probably can’t negotiate paying for a procedure with a new-born calf, price negotiation is often an effective technique for lowering your prices with a doctor or a dentist. The key is information, so find out how much your insurer is willing to cover for your procedure, and relay that information to your doctor to see whether the price will change. Doctors can be more flexible than you’d think because “a fast nickel is better than a slow dime” and insurers are notoriously slow in repayment. Ask.

4. Also ask about procedures that don’t make sense.

You need to stay informed about your health and what your doctor is thinking. If you’ve been scheduled for a procedure that doesn’t make sense, ask why. You’re not challenging the doctor; you just want to stay informed. It also helps to ask, “How much will that cost?” Many times, doctors schedule services only to cover themselves in case of lawsuit or to make extra money. If you sense this is the case, get a second opinion.

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5. Ask for an itemized bill and check it.

I once was charged $24 for a Tylenol tablet. Twenty four bucks! Since I had asked for an itemized bill, I jokingly asked the hospital’s business manager if I could sell them a couple of bottles. “Isn’t $24 for a single tablet a little high?” I asked. She changed it to $1.25. Now, I had insurance to cover it, but this was ridiculous. How many times had the hospital gotten away with it before (and after) me?

6. Take generic medications if your doctor approves.

Ask your doctor to prescribe generic versions of the medications you need since they are exactly the same as the name brand products, only much cheaper. If generics aren’t available for your needed medication, request a less expensive, but comparable, prescription if it’s available. Sometimes, a pharmacist is better able to tell you what is comparable and will call your doctor on your behalf. Just ask.

7. Let the Post Office do the driving.

Most health insurance drug plans now offer prescriptions by mail for medications that you buy over and over. These generally cost less than buying at a pharmacy and many times you can get a 3 month supply rather than a 30 day supply but you lose that personal touch that your pharmacist can provide. I prefer to buy my medications from a local pharmacy, but that’s just me.

8. Buy wholesale.

Wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club, and discount retailers such as Wal-Mart, offer reduced-price prescription drugs. Many grocery stores with pharmacies are offering the same prices as the big boys, so check. Also, you might ask your local pharmacist if he or she can match those prices. Chances are, your local pharmacist CAN match those prices.

9. They still look good!

As long as your eyeglass frames are in good shape, when it’s time to change your prescription, keep those frames and have your new lenses added.

10. Find prescription discounts online.

You can utilize sites such as OptomizeRx, which offers rebates and coupons to help reduce the cost of individual prescriptions by as much as $70. But be careful. There are many scams when it comes to online prescriptions.

With health care costs projected to continue rising ahead of the inflation rate, we have to constantly stay on top of ways to reduce our costs and stretch our health care dollars. But again, the best insurance plan is to take good care of your health so you won’t need to spend them in the first place.


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