Make strategic decisions when selecting healthcare providers and facilities, and plan ahead to keep medical costs down.
If you’ve had to seek medical care recently, you know how expensive office visits, tests, and prescriptions can be. While we can try to avoid these expenses as best we can, there will come a time when seeking medical care is unavoidable.
When that happens, it’s important to make choices that are cost effective by working with your provider to find the best solution for your financial situation. Here are a few tips to get started.
Ways To Save
When seeking services, it’s best to view your health insurance’s directory to find and choose providers and facilities that are in-network. Thanks to your health plan, you’ll receive a negotiated discount. When using out-of-network services, you pay significant upcharges that stem from paying higher copays and coinsurance (the percentage you pay after meeting your deductible).
Your health insurance directory likely has estimates for different appointments and procedures. For more accurate numbers, work with your doctor and insurance provider to price out care, especially if you’re undergoing a major procedure like surgery or delivery. This will give you a ballpark estimate of what you can expect. To minimize costs, verify that everyone from the anesthesiologist to the facility is in-network.
If you’re unable to afford treatment, see if you qualify for free or lost-cost services, try to negotiate rates, and determine if payment plans or discounts are offered. In some cases, you can spread out costs over a long period without paying any interest or added fees. Other ways to save money can include paying in cash, buying generic prescriptions, and opting out of unnecessary tests and procedures.
What you do after you receive care is just as important as planning for the expense. You’ll want to ensure you get an itemized receipt with details on what the cost of services rendered were. If there are billing errors or you get charged twice, you’ll want to report it as soon as possible. Additionally, if a claim isn’t covered by insurance, review your policy and dispute the denial when appropriate.
If you’re unable to pay a bill, avoid charging a credit card that can trap you into paying interest for a long time. You do want to get ahead of this though. It’s best to work with your provider to come up with a payment plan, ideally interest free. If you’re able to pay but find the charges overwhelming, ask about a prompt pay discount for paying the balance in full.
Don’t Ignore Bills
If eligible, consider contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Savings Account (FSA) to help cover health-related expenses as they come up. The last thing you want is for medical bills to overwhelm you, to have accounts wind up in collections, and for those accounts to show up on your credit report. This can ultimately affect your credit score and your ability to borrow.