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Tips for reducing your out-of-pocket health care costs

Hospital can make big money from disease management classesWe all know that health care costs continue to rise dramatically. But this should never deter you from getting the treatment you need. Consumer Reports outlined nine ways you can take control of your health care spending and reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Here are a few to consider:

Tip 1: Comparison shop for your care

Would you buy a car without knowing the price? What if a different dealership had the same car but cheaper? Many health insurers and third-party websites have cost-estimator tools that allow you to see what a specific doctor charges for a treatment. You can compare costs and quality and possibly avoid a surprise bill. Consumer Reports outlined popular cost-estimator tools on their site.

Tip 2: Take advantage of your preventive care

Don’t skimp on preventive care, which is often covered by your health insurer. This includes vaccines, annual well-woman visits and tobacco use screenings. Other preventive services that you might want to explore include depression screenings, diet counseling, anemia screening for women and colonoscopies.

Tip 3: Simply ask the question

“How much does this drug cost?” is a question that doctors don’t typically discuss with their patients, according to a 2016 study by Consumer Reports. Don’t be afraid to ask the question, as your doctor can let you know the cost and help come up with an affordable alternative for your treatment plan.

Tip 4: Confirm your treatment plan with your doctor

A 2017 study by Consumer Reports showed that when patients asked their health care providers if they could stop taking any of their current medications, 71 percent got the OK to stop taking at least one drug. Depending on the type of drug, that can save you a significant amount.

Tip 5: Open a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA)

Take advantage of tax breaks. Both FSAs and HSAs allow you to set aside dollars tax-free to cover health care costs. HSAs are available on plans that have a high deductible, and FSAs are available on employer-sponsored health plans. FSAs must be used during the calendar year, and you can put up to $2,650 in each year. HSAs have a limit of $3,450 for individuals and $6,900 for families.

Tip 6: 1+1= 3? Stay away from combination drugs

In order to increase their profits, pharmaceutical companies will reformulate brand-name drugs that have expiring patents, by combining two drugs or changing them in some way, such as making an extended-release version, according to Consumer Reports. This new brand-name drug is more expensive than its generic equivalent, and you’ll pay more out-of-pocket than you need to for the same treatment.


Tip 7: Planning ahead can reduce out-of-pocket costs

Health plan deductibles reset on Jan. 1 every year. If you know you’ll need treatment or an expensive procedure this year, get it on the books sooner rather than later. That way, if you have follow-up care, you may have already met your deductible. Keep in mind some doctor’s offices book out months in advance. It never hurts to plan ahead.

Had success with any of these tips, or have any of your own to share? Share your story.