Health care costs keep rising and many people are paying more out of the family budget for medical care than in the past. In 2007, people spent nearly $268.6 billion in out-of-pocket expenses, according to the American Hospital Association. It may feel like these costs are out of your control, but there are things you can do to save money and still get quality health care. Here are a few tips:
Choose the most appropriate facility.
• Urgent care vs.same day appointment. Many people assume that the fastest way to get in to see a doctor is to head to an urgent care center. But it generally costs more to do that. Many doctors now hold open space for same day appointments to make sure that they are available to see their patients who need same day attention. So, call your doctor’s office first to see if you can schedule a same day appointment.
• Retail clinics can offer convenient, quick, and affordable access to care for common medical conditions such as strep throat, ear infections and minor burns. They are often located within department, drug or grocery stores. Most are open nights and weekends. Your health insurance may cover these visits, or offer them at discounted rates. Check your benefits documents or your health plan’s Web site for information.
• The Emergency Room (ER) serves an important role in providing immediate care to people with serious, often life-threatening issues. However, many people go to the ER for issues that are much less serious. Not only can this slow down the ER’s ability to help people with more serious illness or injury, but it can also mean unnecessary costs for you. The national average cost for an ER visit is about $1,000. The average cost of an office visit is around $60.
Save on medications
• Generic drugs have the identical active chemical ingredients as the brand name drugs but can be much less expensive. Ask your doctor if there are generics available for any of the medications you take. If there aren’t, ask if there are other drugs in the same class of drugs that could treat your condition that do have a generic available. On average, you can save $200 per prescription per year by using generics.
• A formulary (or drug list) is a list of medications covered under your benefit plan. You usually pay less if your doctor prescribes a medication that is on your health plan’s drug list. Before visiting your doctor, call your plan and ask if you pay less for medications on the list. If so, bring a copy of your plan’s drug list to your next doctor visit.
• Many medications that were once available only by prescription are now available without a prescription. Not only are over-the-counter medications convenient since you don’t need a prescription from your doctor, but they can also save you money.