5 ways of reducing healthcare costs
by Beth Hering
Become a Smarter Patient
Reducing Hospital Bills
While most consumers are aware that opting for a generic equivalent to a name-brand medication can save money, there are other things that also can make a big difference. Here are five relatively easy ways to get some of that money spent on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses back where it belongs, which is in your wallet.
1. Look into buying a three-month supply of medication.
For prescriptions you take regularly that aren't likely to be changed, see if the doctor can write them out for three-month increments instead of one. Not only will you save time and gas by going longer between pick-ups, but also the action might lower your co-pay. For instance, one medication my husband takes has a $60 monthly co-pay. Over three months, this would total $180. If he orders a three-month supply, however, our insurance company drops one of the monthly co-pays, allowing him to get the same 180-day supply for $120.
2. Ask drug companies for discount cards.
Pharmaceutical firms sponsor a variety of programs aimed at helping people pay for their medications. Some are designed for consumers in dire circumstances and require detailed paperwork, but other offers are open to anybody who asks. Call or write the makers of drugs your family typically takes to see if they offer coupons or co-pay discount cards, or ask at your doctor's office if a pharmaceutical rep left any promotional material. One company sent me four coupons each worth $25 off on my son's ADHD medication. Another program, found among the literature in our medical building, enabled us to enroll for a card that takes $15 off each time we pick up a prescription of a popular cholesterol-lowering drug. It took less than five minutes to fill out the form, and the card has been active for more than two years.
3. Know your insurance policy and mention it to the doctor.
Sure, insurance lingo may not always be the easiest thing to read, but getting a good handle on what your policy covers may save you money. (You can always call or email for further explanation.) My dentist was outraged when I told her that my dental insurance would not cover indirect pulp capping when replacing my silver fillings. (Seems the company would rather take the chance that a root canal might be necessary later than pay for a simple procedure now.) Since she knew I was paying that part out of my own pocket, the dentist had her assistant look at what agreed-upon fee she usually charged insurance companies for that procedure and gave me that same discount, giving me a savings of $22 per tooth.
4. Know where to go.
If I schedule an appointment with the pediatrician for my son to get his annual flu shot, we get charged for an office visit. If we drop in and have the nurse administer it, there is no charge. Likewise, I have learned that a tetanus booster is free if given by my primary care physician, but the same shot will cost me $30 if I ask the gynecologist for one at my annual exam.
5. Appeal decisions.
Follow the math here. My son needs 30 mg. of a medication on a daily basis. The drug only comes in 5-, 10-, and 20-mg. tablets. Should he take three 10-mg. pills or one 10-mg. and one 20-mg. pill? You say it doesn't matter, as they both equal the required 30 mg. Correct, but the first answer involves having only one co-pay, whereas the second requires two co-pays because the pills are of different dosages. Guess which way my insurance wanted?
Flabbergasted that we were paying two $40/month co-pays on one drug, I appealed the insurance company's decision. Despite naysayers that said my protest letter would be useless, I received word two weeks later that the medical review board agreed with me and would authorize the other way of dispensing.
The bottom line is that healthcare can be costly, but if you set your mind to finding ways of reducing healthcare costs, you'll often be rewarded!
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