We all like to save a little money. From Black Friday deals to BOGO specials at the grocery store, trimming excess expenses always feels good.
But many don’t realize there are lots of opportunities to stay healthy while cutting medical expenses. Here are four ways you can trim your health care budget this year:
- Avoid the ER – The emergency room is the most expensive place to receive treatment and should only be used when you truly have an emergency such as excessive bleeding, a head injury or difficulty breathing. Urgent care and walk-in clinics cost a fraction of a trip to the ER. They’re ideal for treating conditions such as sprains, coughs, colds and flu-like symptoms, rashes, animal bites and minor broken bones like fingers and toes.
- Ask about Lower-Cost Medications – For some conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, there may be several medications that do the same thing but have drastically different prices. Ask your doctor if there is a generic or lower-cost alternative to expensive brand name medications prescribed for you. Some pharmacies may offer certain generic medications at no cost. You also can save money with most insurers by ordering a 90-day supply of medications through the mail.
- Use Free Preventive Care Benefits – Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans pay the full cost of several preventive care services including a yearly checkup with your primary care doctor, flu shots and other routine vaccinations, and blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests. Depending on your age, cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies are also covered at no cost to you. Getting regular checkups is a good way to identify and address any possible medical issues before they become more severe (and more costly.)
- Shop Around – You shop around for other pricy items, so why not health care services? Your costs for a medical service may vary greatly depending on where it’s performed, which is why it’s important to shop around beforehand. For starters, make sure you always go to a doctor or facility that is in your insurance plan’s network. Next, investigate how much you will be responsible for at different locations. Florida Blue members can log into the member website or app to view a list of nearby facilities with quality and pricing information for services such as MRIs, common surgeries and office visits.
Health care can be expensive, but you may save hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars this year if you just follow these four suggestions.
Catherine Robinson, MS, RDN, LD, CDE is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She has a master’s degree in education and manages the Diabetes/Health Education department for Florida Health Care Plans.