How to Stretch Your Healthcare Dollars
Despite the ability to have affordable insurance, many Americans are still hit hard with costly medical bills. It is easy for medical costs to quickly stack-up, whether or not you are able to pay them off in a similar fashion. Thinking ahead is the best way to help anyone avoid this type of financial distress. By taking certain steps, you can stretch your healthcare dollars and still receive the same medical care that you need in order to stay healthy.
Be Prepared, Plan Ahead
Like with mostly anything related to your finances, being prepared and planning ahead can help you save money in the long run. Carefully examine your income and determine the absolute, maximum out-of-pocket cost you could afford without having to dip into savings or use a credit card. Use this figure when you’re shopping for insurance, and don’t be afraid to opt for more coverage. The more coverage you have, the less likely you are to have a hefty bill if something were to happen.
Though it may be difficult to do, try to stow away extra money in case of an emergency. Depending on your insurance plan, you might have smaller out-of-pocket costs, but in the event of something happening, having a healthcare savings account could prevent you from racking up credit card debt or cutting back on your retirement fund. The cost up-front might be a little more for a bigger plan, but you could end up saving more money this way.
Especially for those who have chronic conditions or see their physician regularly, building up a relationship with your doctor could actually save you money. It is likely that once your doctor understands you, and the circumstances of your financial situation, that they will try to help ease excessive medical expenses.
Additionally, building up a relationship with your physician makes visits easier and more efficient. You wouldn’t be seeing a new doctor every time and having to explain your story over-and-over again. If your condition requires regular testing, like blood samples, new doctors might require you to have this done every time you step in an office. If you stick with the same doctor and build a relationship, all your records are kept in the same facility so they know when you are really due for another testing, which can help you stretch your healthcare dollars.
Utilize Urgent Care Centers
Emergency rooms are a life-saving option for those who are suffering from a life-threatening condition. However, it is all too often that those suffering from minor illnesses or injuries are visiting the ER when they don’t necessarily need too. Of course, safety and health are of the utmost importance, but if you have a condition that could be treated elsewhere, why pay for the cost of the ER?
If you have a non-life-threatening condition, consider going to an urgent care center instead. At these centers, you can still receive the care you require in the off-hours without having to schedule an appointment. Not only does this help you bypass the unbearably long waits at the emergency room, it helps you dodge overpaying for treatment. It’s a great alternative to reduce your healthcare medical bill.
Avoid Unproven Strategies
When you visit the doctor, they might suggest new strategies to help prevent a certain condition. Listen to their pitch and weigh the pros and cons, in accordance to your other options, but don’t feel pressured to agree to such a practice. Unproven preventive strategies can cost you a lot of money, and they might not even work. An example of such is taking a new vitamin or medication. Exhaust other, proven preventative methods before you proceed with the costly alternative.
Also, consider the necessity of certain procedures. For instance, if it is suggested that you have an EKG or X-ray performed while at a routine check-up, these things might not be necessary. Have an honest discussion with your healthcare provider about these procedures and ask why you need to have them done. Sometimes, this type of over-treatment can be costly and even harmful to your body. Use your best judgment and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion, as it could save your body (and your wallet) from harm.
Communicate with Billing
In the event that you have visited a healthcare facility and received a large bill, make sure that you are in good communication with the billing department. Ask for a detailed, itemized bill instead of a simple summary. This way, you can understand exactly what you are paying for and when payments are due. Though your billing was most likely done correctly, ensure that your insurance covered everything it was supposed to.
If you fear that your bill is going to be sent to collections, contact the billing department to see if you can avoid such a fate. They probably won’t lower the total cost of your bill, but they might be willing to work with your payment schedule. You might not save money overall, but you could save your credit score and financial history by avoiding a collection agency.