The average amount spent on healthcare has been rising over the past few years. While the Affordable Care Act and health care reform allowed more Americans to access lower-cost health care, issues such as high deductibles and a lack of coverage remain. Even deductibles associated with employer-provided plans have seen a rise over the years.
So why is the cost of health care so high in the United States?
Several Issues Cause High Healthcare Costs
For starters, premiums for health insurance have been going up, on average. The insurance premium is the amount you pay to get coverage from health plans.
Some people have subsidized insurance, where their employers or a state-run program pays a part of their premium. However, not all workers are lucky enough to have this arrangement. Many have to bear the burden of paying premiums on their own.
There are also health insurance deductibles to consider. The deductible is the amount you have to spend out of your pocket before an insurance company starts paying for your healthcare.
For example, if your deductible is $1,000, you’ll have to spend $1,000 before your insurer starts making payments for your medical visits and procedures. Deductibles, like premiums, have also been going up over the years.
Finally, there are copayments (copays). Most insurance plans charge a copay for every visit to a doctor’s office and each prescription you fill.
Copays vary based on the kind of service you expect to receive. Generally, the more specialist the doctor you’re seeing, the higher the copay.
In short, staying on top of your healthcare spending is complicated, and it can often feel overwhelming. So, how do you cut healthcare costs and save money on medical care? Here are five tips to reduce healthcare costs.
1. Invest In The Right Health Insurance Plan
Cheap health insurance is quite tempting. A low premium seems enticing at first glance. However, you should be careful. While you won’t be paying high premiums, a cheap healthcare plan can cost you in other ways.
For example, a low-cost health insurance plan may not cover specific procedures. You may also find that the group of providers in the plan’s network is small and limited. The lack of choices might make it challenging to get the kind of healthcare you need.
There also tends to be an inverse relationship between premiums and deductibles. This dynamic might not always be true, but generally, the lower one is, the higher the other one is likely to be.
In other words, a low premium on your health insurance plan often means a high deductible.
The same relationship can also exist between premiums and copays. Consequently, a supposedly cheap health insurance plan can end up being very expensive once you add up all the copays and deductibles.
That’s not to say that all lower-cost health insurance is terrible. However, if you have children or are dealing with a previous condition that requires medication and monitoring, the copays and deductible payments can add up very quickly and lead to financial hardship.
In some cases, you also need to check your coverage, especially if you are on a program like Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare may offer excellent medical coverage, but it may not cover some procedures.
In such cases, you’re likely to use your insurance often, which means it may make more sense to pay a higher premium but lower deductibles and copays. Paying more upfront could be more cost-effective and help you lower costs in the long term.
2. Pick Generic Medicines To Lower Drug Costs
Brand-name prescription drugs cost more than their generic counterparts. You can avoid spending all of that money if you ask for the generic version instead.
You do not have to sacrifice quality or efficacy when using generic drugs. Because of regulations and safety practices in the drug industry, generic drugs need to be high-quality products that provide the same health outcomes as their name-brand counterparts.
In some cases, health care providers may automatically ask the pharmacy to give you generic versions of your medication. You can also find a pharmacy that offers generic versions of the medicines that you use. Walmart and Walgreens, for example, may have generic versions of your medications.
3. Review Your Medical Bills
Medical coding and billing are complex undertakings. Billing specialists or medical professionals can make honest mistakes when preparing medical bills that lead to you paying more than you should.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to look through all your medical bills and ask questions about things that don’t seem right. It is much better to ask about something before paying than attempting to get a refund after settling a bill. You may even be able to negotiate medical bills in some cases.
4. If It’s Not Life-threatening, Don’t Go To The ER
Illnesses and accidents are always beyond our control. When something comes up, your first inclination might be to head directly to the emergency room.
There are alternatives, however, to getting immediate care in the emergency department. If you feel that your life or your family member’s life is in danger, then the ER is undoubtedly the best choice.
However, if the need for care is not immediate, you can go to an urgent care center or your primary care provider.
Average ER costs have been climbing, and the price may be significantly more than a trip to the regular medical clinic. Most insurance companies also have a different set of copays for ER visits.
However, most insurers in the U.S. health care system treat urgent care clinic visits like regular office visits with a primary care doctor. The copay will be lower, and it may not affect your deductible as much. In a non-life-threatening situation, you would get the same patient care in a clinic as in the emergency room.
5. Take Care of Your Overall Health
It can feel like too much of a hassle to go to the doctor for every minor health issue you face. You don’t like the idea of having to take time off work to check that little cough or fever. However, focusing on your overall health and well-being and getting preventive care can help lower your medical costs.
However, if that minor cough persists, it could be a sign of a severe issue, such as pneumonia. If persistent health issues do turn out to be something more serious, you’ll find yourself racking up high bills at the hospital and making repeat visits to the doctor.
The longer you let something go, the more expensive it becomes to treat, and the higher the risk of ongoing treatment for chronic conditions.
It’s a good idea to stay on top of your health issues before they escalate. It might seem like skipping those doctor’s visits is saving you some medical bills. However, in the long run, it might be multiplying into high costs.
When it comes to reducing your healthcare costs, those little acts of diligence add up over time. Paying attention to the details can help you reduce healthcare costs and save thousands of dollars in the long run. Even if your healthcare costs are higher than average, relief may be in sight.