By John Schmoll
Mention the term health care and you're likely to get a variety of responses. Regardless of your political leanings, one thing is for certain -– health care is an expensive necessity in today's economic climate.
According to Statistic Brain, we spend about $10,000 per person on health care costs every year. The good news is that there are ways to reduce those costs if we are purposeful about it. Cutting costs becomes even more important considering smart spending now, on preventative measures, for example, can cut costs down the road, too. Here are some ideas for keeping your own health care costs down:
1. Take Advantage of Tax Savings
One of the best ways to save on health care costs comes in the form of a flexible spending account or a health savings account. Both are tax-advantaged accounts that allow you to put aside funds for health care needs. In many cases, your employer may offer matching funds, up to a certain amount. Ultimately, using either the FSA or HSA should reduce your taxes and help you think more like a consumer when it comes to your health care spending.
2. Try Cheaper Facilities
Many people don't realize that a fair number of doctors operate at several facilities. The fee to see your doctor will stay the same regardless of where you see him, but the charge assessed by the facility can vary quite a bit. If that's not an option for you, consider other ways to see a doctor. Many grocery stores offer in-store clinics manned by a doctor or nurse. Assuming you're needing to see a doctor for something relatively common, this method can be a great way to save money.
3. Get a Prescription for Over-the-Counter Drugs
One drawback to the FSA or HSA is that you can no longer use the funds to purchase over-the-counter drugs. A way around this is to get a prescription from your doctor for medicines that you regularly use, like pain relievers and allergy medication. Just remember to ask for the prescription to be similar to what you're currently taking to avoid any negative impacts.
4. Get Free Money
With the advent of more high-deductible health plans, more employers are offering incentives to employees that can result in free money for you. This varies by employer, of course, but usually is in the form of taking a health care assessment in exchange for a certain amount to be put in your HSA.
Some employers also offer free or low-cost weight loss or smoking cessation programs. These programs help your employer save on their costs plus giving you the chance to get in better health.
5. Get a Cash Discount
If you've dealt with health insurance much, then you know what a hassle it can be. It can be the same, if not worse, for a doctor's office. Help reduce the hassle by offering to pay cash -- for a discount off your insurance's agreed-upon rate. Not every doctor will offer this but it is well worth asking for, especially if you've not met your deductible yet for the year. If this isn't an option, consider asking for a discount for paying for the entire bill all at once. Again, this may not always work, but can be well worth a simple request.
Health care costs can get out of hand, but with a little creative thinking, there are ways to save money without sacrificing care.
By John Schmoll