To avoid snowballing debt, people without health coverage often choose to forgo doctors' visits altogether. But this may end up costing them more down the road, warns health care consultant Michelle Katz, author of the book "Healthcare for Less."
Preventive care is essential to diagnosing and treating illnesses before they require costly medical interventions. Whether you are uninsured or simply trying to economize, Katz suggests these three tips to cut your medical expenses:
Pay cash to reduce costs:
People often don't realize that medical costs are negotiable — particularly if you're willing to pay cash. A cash transaction can save you up to 50 percent, says Katz. This is an excellent option for those with no health coverage, but it's also worth paying cash if you do have insurance. Many physicians will cut you a deal anyway because it saves them the headache of wrangling with the insurance company.
Not all medical charges are created equal. The cost of procedures can fluctuate wildly from hospital to hospital. "It's like shopping for a car," says Katz. Before you go in for elective surgery, she suggests calling the billing departments of several local hospitals to get price quotes. Find out exactly what services are included in the cost to avoid hidden charges.
Don't pay full price for your prescriptions:
Before your doctor writes you a prescription, inquire if there are samples to be had. If they aren't available, ask your care provider to write a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day. This will save you from having to schedule another appointment for a refill. Shopping at the pharmacies of wholesalers, such as Costco or Sam's Club, can also deliver significant savings. But regardless of where you fill your prescriptions, ask for the generic brand.
Of course, some health care expenses are unavoidable, but don't be a passive consumer. According to the Medical Billing Advocates of America, an advocacy group, as many as nine out of 10 medical bills reviewed contain errors. Katz says vigilantly checking your medical bills can save you tons of cash.
By Marshall Loeb
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