It’s rare to see a news story about medical costs that doesn’t describe them as “high,” “rising,” “soaring” or “out of control.”
Of course, unless you’re young and never go to the doctor, you’re already painfully aware of how onerous health care costs have become.
But there are ways to lower the amount you have to spend out-of-pocket for medical care.
Here are six easy steps you can take.
1. Use a Comprehensive Online Tool to Choose Your Insurance
Comparing benefits and prices – not to mention deductibles, copayments, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximums – by poring over brochures or print-outs, or going back and forth between windows on your computer or phone, is only slightly more productive than tossing a coin.
Every health care carrier has different terms and different terminology, and they make it as hard as they can to look at choices side-by-side. If you’ve ever tried to pick a health insurance plan you already know how frustrating the experience can be.
The best way to choose the right insurance for your needs and budget is to use an online comparison tool.
Unfortunately, most don’t show you every plan available, and they don’t give you any real idea how much you’d actually have to pay when you see the doctor for bronchitis or go to the hospital for an operation.
A comprehensive tool like the Candor Insurance App is designed to solve all of those issues. You simply enter all of your important information like age, family situation, lifestyle, and budget. You’ll then see the actual amounts you’d pay with each plan, you’ll be able to easily choose the carrier and plan that works best for you – and you’ll save a boatload of money.
2. Only Use In-Network Doctors, Hospitals and Pharmacies
Every insurance plan has contracts with a network of favored health care providers who have negotiated lower prices for your care. That means the insurer – and you – have to pay less for “in-network” care than if you visit an “out-of-network” provider who hasn’t cut a deal with the insurance company.
Almost all networks have great doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies; just be sure to stay in-network to get the best prices.
3. Use a Health Savings Account or a Flexible Spending Account
Many employers let you set up one of these accounts to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs with pre-tax dollars. An HSA is preferable to an FSA but used properly, either one can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in taxes.
4. Don’t Automatically Run to the Emergency Room
It costs a lot more to be treated at the ER than at an urgent care clinic or at the doctor’s office, and calling an ambulance will add another big bill. (The wait at the emergency room is usually a lot longer, too.) Before automatically heading to the ER, remember the word “emergency” is in the phrase “emergency room” for a reason.
5. An Insurance Company’s First Word Isn’t Always Final
Doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies all make billing mistakes. If a claim is denied but you don’t think it should have been, call to ask for explanations, talk to supervisors or file appeals, and contact state regulatory officials if necessary. It may take a lot of time and cause a lot of aggravation, but it can really be worth it.
6. Talk to Your Doctor or Hospital
As we’ve mentioned, insurance companies negotiate with medical providers for lower prices. You can, too. A doctor or hospital won’t automatically give you a discount, but there’s a good chance they will if you tell them about your financial situation and concerns about being able to pay. At the very least, most providers will set up payment plans to make things easier.