Consumers today are being battered by high fuel costs and a sharp rise in groceries, while seeing wages remain virtually stagnant. When consumer confidence is down, the whole country suffers as people look for ways to cut costs and save money.
One huge expenditure that continues to grow at a pace outstripping the rate of inflation are healthcare costs. Monthly insurance premiums, prescriptions costs, doctor co-pays, and lab charges are just some of the many components of healthcare expenditures, what every American needs but are finding it increasingly difficult to afford.
Federal government intervention may be forthcoming, but with the current state of the economy what form that will take remains unknown. Both presidential candidates, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, have discussed the issue at length, but any sort of plan is months, if not years away from implementation.
Instead of waiting for outside relief, there are a number of ways that you can save on healthcare right now. Please read on and we’ll ten cost saving measures you can start today:
Shop For A Plan – If your place of employment doesn’t offer healthcare coverage, then like millions of Americans you’ll be shopping for your own plan. Your age, gender, medical history, genetics, and even your personal behavior (smoking, for example) will all be taken into consideration when shopping for coverage. Compare various plans from leading providers including HMO and PPO plans. If you are in good health, consider accepting a high deductible; you’ll pay more for doctor visits and hospital stays, but you’ll save hundreds of dollars annually in premiums if you shop around.
Consider Generic Equivalents – Many of the prescription drugs on the market have generic equivalents, medicines which provide similar relief but at a fraction of the cost. Consult with your physician as to whether a medicine can be substituted and, if so, go with the cheaper drug. Shop at Wal-Mart pharmacies and you’ll pay just $4 per month or $10 for three months for select drugs. Other retailers including CVS and Target have similar programs offering great savings too.
Get Samples – One way to avoid the pharmacist altogether is to ask your physician for drug company samples. Pharmaceutical representatives try to win over doctors to write prescriptions for their products, by offering samples (and other incentives) to doctors who can give them to their patients. The next time your son or daughter gets bronchitis, ask your child’s doctor for free samples. Some doctors will even have a coupon available that can be redeemed at the pharmacy for reduced cost or free prescription drugs.
Split Your Prescriptions – Maybe you only need 10 mg of a particular drug but your physician is willing to write you a prescription for 20 mpg, provided you cut your pills in half. Pharmacists usually charge the same rate for higher dosage drugs, but you can cut your costs in half if you are willing to split your pills in half. Drug stores even sell pill splitters; you’ll pay about five dollars for this nifty little device that pays for itself right away.
Stay In The Plan – Your health insurer encourages you to use doctors in their plan as they negotiate special rates with each one. If you go outside of the plan, your contribution will be significantly higher, a possible budget-buster if you’re not careful. If you must go outside of your plan, contact your insurer first to find out what you share of the cost will be.
Avoid the Emergency Room – If you have an emergency, do you really need to go to the hospital? Certainly, life threatening and traumatic injuries require emergency care, but if you have a strep throat, twist an ankle, or some other less serious illness or injury comes up, visiting your doctor’s office can be the smart way to go. “Doc in a Box” urgent care facilities can usually provide the same care as a hospital emergency room and at a much lower cost.
Open A Health Savings Account – A health savings account (HSA) can be one way for you to cover some of your healthcare costs while providing a tax deduction. An HSA can be especially helpful if you have an insurance plan with a high deductible – these funds can cover those costs as needed.
Declare Your Deductibles – Instead of settling for the standard deduction when you file your federal tax return, consider itemizing to reduce your tax burden. Health insurance premiums, your share of doctor’s visits, prescriptions, dental visits, and so many more other health-related expenditures can be deducted. Although your expenditures must be 7.5% of your gross income, you may find yourself exceeding that amount with ease. Tip: Keep excellent records of all of your health-related spending.
Go To Dental School – No, I don’t mean you should become a dentist, but if you need to have expensive dental work done, then consider going to a local dental school for care. You’ll have your smile worked on by students who are supervised by instructors, people who are licensed dentists themselves. Have your teeth cleaned, cavities filled, a crown molded, or other dental work done at a fraction of the cost of visiting your own dentist.
Change Your Habits – Preventive care is the chief way you can reduce your healthcare costs which can be realized by changing some of your habits. Quit smoking, drink in moderation only, exercise, eat right, and learn how to handle stress properly. Take an aspirin a day, keep your teeth clean, check your private parts for lumps, and keep an eye on your skin for odd looking moles. Get an annual check up to test your blood sugar, heart, liver, and overall health.
Saving money on healthcare costs will help keep your budget balanced while helping you to live a life filled with good health. Carefully check each medical invoice, question unverifiable charges, and actively seek the help that you need. You don’t need to rely upon federal intervention for your individual healthcare, something that may or may not come in the years ahead.