If you or anyone in your family has had to deal with healthcare costs in the last few years, it’s not going to be news to you that prices have been rising to an incredible degree as of late. Too many of us, families and individuals, live in a world where one accident or one diagnosis can all too easily lead you from relative security to serious debt. There are a few hacks and general tips, however, that could see your costs dip. Which work, which don’t, and what are the hidden downsides of some? It’s time to take a deeper look.
Is there a cash discount?
“Pay for cash” is a piece of advice you might have heard about already when it comes to getting for treatment. There’s no denying that, if you can pay for cash, it can end up costing you a lot less. However, there are some caveats to this. First of all, not everyone accepts cash. There are cash-only hospitals, but they are few and far in-between. Most doctors won’t accept cash if they know you have insurance. So, this leaves those trying to cut their costs in a precarious situation, where it seems like dishonesty is the only way to get that discount.
The in-network difference
A lot of doctors that are members of insurance networks won’t accept cash, but if they are part of your network, it could mean paying a little less. Many patients neglect to verify whether their providers are part of their network. You could be visiting a hospital, clinic, or doctor who isn’t, and in response, your medical bills will be higher because you’re not benefiting from the discount you would get from a member of said network. Your insurance provider’s website and the doctor/clinic’s website should both contain lists of which network affiliations are in place, but these are not always fully up-to-date. Your best bet is to call your provider and call your insurance to verify for certain.
Using tax-free accounts
At some point, most of us are going to have to dip into our savings to pay for a treatment. But to some people, that’s costlier than they might think. Most savings accounts are taxed, after all. So, while you’re saving, you’re already spending a little money. That’s not the case with health savings accounts, however. HSAs are entirely tax-free, meaning you can save without losing any of those savings along the way. The downside of this is that your HSA can be only be used for medical expenses. You can’t take it back out if you decide you don’t need to worry about those costs anymore.
Do preventive measures cut spending?
As mentioned, a new diagnosis or injury can suddenly cast you in some rocky financial waters. One of the tips regularly given to help decrease your odds of being put in that situation is to spend money improving your health, now. Use wellness programs, take supplements, exercise, buy better food. There’s no denying that the majority of these things cost some money. However, the truth lies in the stats. Preventable chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, are a part of the lives of 45% of all adult lives. Preventative treatment and better lifestyle management could see a prevention of up to 80% of all heart disease diagnoses, for one. No, you can’t prevent the contraction of all diseases or every single accident, but there’s no denying investing in your health now will, in most people’s lives, stop you from having to fork out for bigger costs later.
Same drug, different costs?
You may have heard people say, in the past, that generic drugs are entirely the same as branded kinds, with a cheaper price tag. This is true, in some respects. But the differences are worth noting. The active ingredients do, legally, have to be the same. But there are some differences. These include any flavorings or preservatives that branded drugs might include. But they can also include ingredients that are crucial to how those active ingredients get released through the body. The same dose of a generic drug can work differently in your body than a brand type. This is because the brand holders don’t release their patents that show how to manufacture the drug. While, in most cases, generics can work just as effectively, there are some instances where it might not be wise to assume so, such as with heart disease medication. Ask your doctor about generic drugs if you’re uncertain.
Same plan, different costs?
However, if you’re on Medicare, it might be entirely possible for you to get a Medigap, or Medicare Supplement Plan, plan for cheaper with zero difference in the product you’re getting. The different Medigap plans, lettered from A-N, have a very set definition of what they offer. If you browse plans online, you could see, for instance, that a Medigap Plan D might have two different prices from two providers, but they are providing exactly the same service. When it comes to Medigap, there is zero downside to choosing the provider who offers cheaper coverage.
You can even find branded drugs for less
So, in certain cases, going generic might not benefit you as much you might like. But even branded drugs can vary wildly in costs. Depending on which pharmacy you visit, a drug might be ten times the cost of what it could be in another pharmacy. Whenever you get a prescription, even if you’re covered by insurance, browse nearby pharmacies online. There’s a significant chance you can find the exact same medication for much cheaper somewhere other than your usual store.
The error economy
This is one hack that is entirely legit. The number of mistakes made when processing bills are staggering. Four in five medical bills contain errors, small and large, that can sometimes see your costs going up and can sometimes see your insurance provider refusing to cover treatment. These errors run the gamut from simple insurance information mismatches to duplicate and erroneous charges that keep adding to your bills. Make a habit of asking for your bills to be printed in the long-form, with expanded entries detailing every single cost, and using a checklist of errors to run against it. 4 out of 5 times, you are going to spot an error and most of these errors are going to result in your paying more than you should.
Does the gift of the gab work?
Sometimes, the traditional method of getting a price cut can work. We are talking, of course, about negotiating your bills. Providers can accept from 50%-80% less than the list price first billed, especially if they’re in a network with your provider. It requires a little savvy and research on the part of the customer. Get to know the prices of treatments from other healthcare providers and negotiate before you receive treatment, rather than after. Talk to your provider, rather than your insurance company. The truth is that if they are on your network, they are likely to have their losses subsidized by the discount that the insurance company offers. If you have major medical bills, it may be worth enlisting the help of a consultant, which tend to charge you a certain percentage of what you save, meaning you still get to keep the majority of your savings.
Is it really an emergency?
One of the questions that has been in the spotlight as of late is the difference between the emergency room and an urgent care center. In particular, people have been looking at the fact that urgent care centers are, indeed, cheaper on average than a visit to the emergency room for cases that aren’t truly an emergency. However, if an urgent care center is under the umbrella of one of those exorbitantly costly emergency rooms, the chances are they are going to have the same prices, so choose your urgent care carefully. If it really is an emergency, don’t risk skipping past the kind of treatment you might need most, either.
When is it a write-off?
You can get some healthcare expenses written off your tax bill under certain circumstances. Specifically, if your costs make up 7.5% of your gross annual income, you could see returns on a wide range of costs. Some of the costs you can deduct from your taxes include preventative care, surgeries, dental, vision care, costs of prescription medications, glasses, contacts, false teeth, and more. Expenses that are covered by your insurance are not deductible, however, nor do your insurance costs contribute to the 7.5% that could make you eligible to qualify for those deductions, either.
So, most the known hacks work, to some extent, but there are occasional disadvantages to choosing the cheaper option. In other cases, there are no disadvantages at all. Follow the tips above the vast majority of people will find some way of keeping their costs down until the healthcare system gets a little more manageable for the average person.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.