In the midst of a pandemic, it's only natural that your health -- and the health of your loved ones -- would be your top concern. But in the U.S., the exorbitant costs associated with medical treatment can make it feel impossible for you to get the care you need. While it isn't always easy to find affordable treatment, it is possible to reduce your healthcare expenditures. Here are just five ways for your family to save money on healthcare costs.
Ask For Generic Medications or SamplesWhen you visit your doctor for a certain health condition or ailment, you might assume that whatever they recommend at the pharmacy should be followed to the letter. But that doesn't mean you have to opt for brand-name products. In many cases, you could be forced to pay substantially more for a brand-name medication than for its generic equivalent. Data shows that around 90% of generic drug co-pays cost less than $20, while only 39% of brand-name medications come in under the $20 mark. If your doctor can recommend a generic version of the medication you need, you could stand to save a lot.
It's also worth pointing out that your physician may be able to provide you with free samples of a medication you need. Although the antibiotics prescribed for many conditions, such as chronic sinusitis, may have their 10- to 14-day course covered by your insurance, there are other medications that could cost you much more out-of-pocket. Your doctor is likely to have free samples of certain medications on-hand at their office they can provide you with, which can allow you to keep your healthcare budget in better shape for at least a couple of months. Don't be shy about asking for free medication samples.
Research All Available Insurance PoliciesNavigating your health insurance needs can be overwhelming. But it's important that you take the time to research the plans available to you to understand what is -- and what isn't -- covered. Although 14.1 million Americans had a Medicare Supplement insurance policy in 2018, that option isn't available to everyone. And in many cases, it's better to pick a plan with a slightly higher monthly premium in order to save money on necessary treatment in the future. The plans with the highest deductibles will often cost you more in the long run, especially in the event of an emergency. Even if your loved ones have no current medical issues, it's often not worth gambling on that fact. And instead of automatically re-enrolling in the same healthcare plan every year, it'll benefit you to research your options to ensure you're saving as much as possible.
Make Sure Doctors Are Within Your NetworkWhether your care is in-network or out-of-network matters a lot when you're trying to save money. Doctors, hospitals, and even pharmacies can often charge much more for treatment if their services are outside of your insurance network. You could even end up paying the full cost out-of-pocket for healthcare if you don't ensure your medical provider is within network. It's a good idea to research this well before any medical emergency takes place to make certain you don't end up at a hospital or pharmacy that will derail your budget. Keep in mind that even if the healthcare facility is within your network, the doctor might not be (particularly if you're seeing a specialist). While some states have enacted protections to prevent patients from being stuck with surprise bills, you should do your due diligence and ask a given physician if they're within your insurance network before receiving care.
Avoid Going to the ER When PossibleAround 3.6 million open wounds are reported in the U.S. each year, but that doesn't mean every one of these health concerns is a true medical emergency. Visiting the emergency room for non-life-threatening conditions not only leads to ER crowding, but it will almost certainly result in a massive medical bill. While you shouldn't avoid the emergency department if you feel your life is at risk, you should seek out other options for less serious conditions. Community health clinics, urgent care centers, and telemedicine calls can provide a high quality of care for non-urgent illnesses and ailments. While you should still check on the cost prior to visiting or calling, your bills will undoubtedly be much lower if you avoid the emergency room.
Prioritize Exercise As a FamilyHave you ever heard the expression that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" Prioritizing preventative healthcare is one of the best ways to keep medical costs down. Taking advantage of free screenings and other low-cost preventative health exams can often prevent medical emergencies. But so can regular physical activity -- and exercise doesn't have to cost much at all. Whether you take a nightly walk around the neighborhood, bring your bikes to a local trail, or throw a dance party in your kitchen, moving your bodies regularly can reduce stress, improve sleep, support weight maintenance, and potentially prevent disease. In the end, this addition to your routine could help you save a lot on your medical bills.
Managing healthcare costs isn't easy for any American family. But it's definitely not impossible to save money on medical treatment. By keeping these tips in mind, you'll be in a better position to keep your finances in check without jeopardizing the care your family deserves.