Health care costs are at an all-time high. Even with health insurance, a patient’s portion of the bill can feel overwhelming. And let’s face it – the more our bank account takes a hit, the less likely we are to seek care. So how can we stay on top of our health without overpaying? Believe it or not, a few simple adjustments could save you hundreds of dollars.
1. Schedule Annual Wellness Appointments
Experts agree that routine, recommended screenings and wellness visits are among the best ways to save money on health care costs.
“The preventive care provided during wellness visits is free, though you may incur some cost for managing chronic or acute illness” said Dr. Lesley Kieffer, Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare. “That said, annual wellness visits are significantly less expensive than a trip to the emergency room. Ask yourself, would you rather pay for a medication change or refill to help you manage symptoms, or cover the cost of an unexpected, extended hospital stay? Prevention is always the right answer.”
Wellness visits are a low-cost opportunity to help you stay ahead of the game by identifying any signs of illness in its preliminary stages – when it’s easier and less expensive to treat. Its also an easy way to stay on top of critical vaccinations that can protect you from developing severe illness and/or being hospitalized. In addition to addressing any issues you’re experiencing with your physical health, you should use this time with your doctor to discuss any mental health concerns for which you may need medication or counseling
“This is your opportunity to have an open and honest conversation with your primary care provider,” said Dr. Kieffer. “They can help you understand when certain screenings are recommended based on your specific profile and health history, so you’ll always get the care you truly need. If a test is deemed appropriate for your individual circumstances, it will likely be covered by your insurance.”
2. Rethink Your Approach to Prescription Medications
Is your prescription medication available in a generic version? It might be worth looking into.
According to the FDA, opting for a generic version of your medication could cost you substantially less – anywhere from 30 to 80 percent less than the brand name version.
But that’s not all.
Getting your prescriptions through the mail could also result in a small savings, not to mention spare you a trip to the pharmacy. Discount cards and coupons are also a simple way to help you cut costs on everything from prescriptions to over-the-counter medications, medical supplies, and even pet prescriptions purchased through a pharmacy.
When it comes to saving money on prescriptions, Dr. Kieffer mentioned one other important consideration.
“Take your medications as directed,” she said. “Taking them more often than recommended, or not often enough, could worsen your condition or cause additional health issues, which will inevitably cost you more money down the road.”
3. Seek the Appropriate Level of Care
Sometimes we’re faced with an illness or injury that leaves us questioning where to seek care. Can it wait for an appointment with my primary doctor? Do I need urgent care? Should I go to the emergency room? The choice we make will ultimately determine how much we pay.
“First and foremost, always seek emergency care for a life-threatening condition or circumstances that could result in permanent injury,” said Dr. Kieffer. “This can include anything from severe chest pain to head injuries, allergic reactions and major bleeding. For less severe conditions that still warrant immediate attention, such as high fever, minor wounds and cuts or simple fractures, urgent care is the best choice. Mild conditions and routine care are best handled through a virtual or regularly scheduled appointment.”
If you need help determining the appropriate level of care for your condition or symptoms, use ThedaCare’s online symptom checker or call the Community Hotline at 920-830-6877.
4. Choose In-Network Providers
Your insurance plan includes a network of care providers from whom you can choose to receive care. By doing so, you’ll pay a significantly lower rate – on average, 50% less.
“Choosing medical professionals, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies in your network is one of the simplest ways to save on health care,” said Dr. Kieffer. “If you’re unsure about which providers or locations are in-network, your health insurance company can provide you with that information.”
There may be instances where it isn’t possible to see someone in-network, for example, if you’re on vacation out-of-state. In such cases, contact your insurance company for recommendations.
While you’re at it, give your insurance plan a good look over and know which costs you’re responsible for. Having a thorough understanding of your copay, deductible and covered medications can help you avoid unexpected expenses.
5. Take Care of Your Health
It might sound obvious, but reducing health care expenses starts with reducing unnecessary care. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of chronic disease, promote bone and joint health, protect your mental health and increase immunity, all of which will minimize the need to seek care outside of regular wellness visits.
“Eat a balanced diet, fit plenty of movement into your day, get adequate sleep and ditch unhealthy habits like smoking,” said Dr. Kieffer. “Of all the ways you can lower the cost of care, the best approach is preventing illness and injury in the first place. The money you’ll save is a win for sure, but the real advantage is positioning yourself for a longer, healthier life.”
Learn more about the care options available to you, including what to expect during your wellness visit, how to choose the right level of care for your condition, and where to find providers in your network.