6 Ways to Save Money on Healthcare
By Jeannie Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
I’m fortunate that my family and I are in pretty good health. But, in recent years we’ve had several expenses related to healthcare due to my pregnancy, a few health concerns, general cold/flu stuff, and being first-time parents with a tiny baby. I’m by no means a healthcare expert, but I have found there are a few ways to save money on healthcare, so I wanted to share them with you!
Before we start though, I want to say that you should always make your health a priority. These tips are not intended to encourage you to sacrifice your health in order to save money. You only have one body – take care of yourself!
Get a Second Opinion. If you have a hefty estimate for healthcare-related costs and something about it just doesn’t seem right to you, get a second opinion. My beloved dentist retired, so I had to find a new dentist. At my first visit, that dentist told me I required work that would cost $650 and then pressured me to set an appointment to start the work within a week. I was jolted – my previous dentist never suggested I might have underlying problems! So I decided to get a second opinion, and I’m glad I did. I was referred to a terrific dentist by friends, and she told me she didn’t see any need for anything more than a regular cleaning.
Explore Alternatives. For many of us, when we decide we need to see a doctor right away we go to urgent care. In my experience, that most often results in spending several hours being shuffled between the waiting room, the exam room, and the pharmacy – and then an expensive urgent care bill a few weeks later. But in the last couple of years, many different options have become available to patients:
- Heal – We love Heal! They send a doctor to your home for only $99. And, they accept many different types of insurance, which could mean you only pay your co-pay (but never more than $99). Each visit includes a whole check-up too. Heal is great for times when you know you or your child need to see a doctor, but don’t necessarily need to see your doctor (isolated ear infections, skin rashes, sore throat). It’s less expensive than any urgent care visit I’ve ever had. *This option is not available everywhere, but there may be something similar where you live.
- Alternative Urgent Care Facilities – You may have noticed an urgent care clinic in your local shopping center, right next to the coffee shop! They seemed to have popped up overnight J Depending on what you need, they may be more affordable than another urgent care facility. At the very least, they are likely more convenient than another facility. Call ahead to see if they are in your network.
- Virtual Healthcare – Many insurance companies now offer and/or cover a virtual healthcare option, where you can speak or Skype (or FaceTime) with a doctor or nurse 24 hours a day. My insurance offers MDLive, which allows me to speak with a doctor for less than $50. I have yet to use it, but I think it’s a good option for things like pink eye, an insect bite or skin rash. My insurance also offers a 24-hour nurse line where I can speak to a nurse for free. It’s another great option that might allow me to skip urgent care or a doctor’s visit altogether if say, for example, I’m a new mom and my daughter has a temperature of 102 (but is acting fine) and I’m thinking about taking her to the ER (That actually happened… the nurse assured me that 102 is manageable and gave me advice on what to do).
One note – the time to research these services is now (before you need them). Ask around, contact your insurance company or family doctor to get a sense of what’s available to you and what it would cost. You don’t want to try to figure this out when you or a loved one is sick.
Ask for a Discount. It might surprise you to learn there are many instances where it makes sense to ask for a discount for healthcare services. Some examples include: regular services for which you are paying out-of-pocket (acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy), items not covered by your prescription coverage (supplements, formula, medical supplies), or if you’re paying cash. Here are some phrases you can use:
- “Since I need six treatments over the next two months, can you offer me a discount if I prepay for them now?”
- “You’re doing a great job and I’m starting to see an improvement. I plan on being a long-term patient. Do you have a discounted monthly plan?”
- “Do you have a sample of this product so I can try it out before buying it?”
- “My insurance doesn’t cover this so I’m paying out-of-pocket… do you have a cash discount?”
Research Costs. When you and your doctor agree that an outside test or procedure (an MRI, an x-ray, an ultrasound, etc.) is necessary for your care, she’ll generally send in a referral for you – but you’re not always required to go to that facility! The cost of these procedures can vary widely, and if your insurance covers a percentage of costs (as many do), then your direct costs can vary widely. My insurance company offers a tool to find the best cost for a procedure, so check to see if that might also be available to you. If that’s not an option, first call the facility to see if they can give you a cost estimate for the procedure required, and then do your research to see if you can find it for less elsewhere. Doing this saved my family several hundred dollars on a recent MRI and ultrasound.
Run the Numbers. Take a look at your budget to see how much you’re spending on healthcare, and then see if there is any opportunity for savings. For my family, it doesn’t make sense for us to participate in my company’s dental plan. The monthly premiums are very high, and the insurance covers very little. We’ve opted to forgo dental insurance to spend that money on our regular cleanings/x-rays and then set aside some money in case any of us need major dental work. Additionally, you might find it makes sense to participate in your company’s Flexible Spending Account or a Health Savings Account. These changes can save you hundreds of dollars a year, but you won’t know until you take a look.
Stay Healthy. Easier said than done, right? But, sincerely, it’s much better for your health and your wealth if you make an effort to stay healthy. Here are some things you can do to stay healthy: quit smoking, eat a balanced diet, get regular physical activity, drink water, wash your hands frequently, get plenty of sleep, get regular check-ups, wear appropriate safety gear (bike helmets, knee pads, gloves, safety glasses), and avoid contact with people who are sick. If you can make small efforts to avoid a cold/flu (or pink eye or a broken bone), that will not just save you the pain, inconvenience, and heartache, but also the money associated with treatment.
To be honest, when I first started writing this blog post I wasn’t sure I’d have enough to offer… turns out, this mama has learned quite a bit about saving money on healthcare! But, I’d love to hear what you have to say too, so please leave a comment if you have any additional tips!