Ways to Lower Your Healthcare Expenses
August 12, 2009
Vol. 5, Issue 7
As congress debates how to reform healthcare, there is one thing that everyone agrees on – we want to get more and pay less. Helping our readers and customers save money is our prime objective, so this month I’d like to remind you of some ways you can do so.
Be an Involved Consumer
Health savings accounts are one aspect of what is known as “consumer-driven healthcare”. The basic idea is simple – when you get the consumer involved in the buying decision, they can make better decisions than a bureaucrat at an insurance company or government office.
No one is in a better position to figure out where to get the best deal; to judge the quality of the healthcare; or to decide what particular care you’ll receive – than you! And as you and thousands of other HSA owners make these types of decisions, the physicians and companies that offer the best value will be the most successful.
Pay Less for Prescription Drugs
One area where most people can save money is in the area of prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies spend loads of money lobbying doctors to prescribe their latest drugs to come to market. Often these drugs are much more expensive than existing generic drugs, with no greater proven efficacy.
So the first thing you should do when a doctor hands you a prescription is to ask him if it is a generic drug. If so, you can probably pick it up at Wal-Mart for $4. If it is not, ask the doctor if there is a generic that would work as well.
If you are going to be taking the drug long-term, look into mail order options, which can often offer substantial savings. And if you do go to the pharmacy, make sure you use a prescription discount card to see if it will save you some money. If you don’t have one, go to our Additional Benefits page and get yourself one.
Pay Less for Lab Fees
Lab fees are often marked up 1000% or more, and are often strong profit centers for hospitals and doctor offices. Typically the doctor may draw the blood, but will then send the sample to a lab for analysis. By bypassing the middle-man, you can save a substantial amount of money.
There are independent labs in all but the smallest towns, where you can directly order blood tests, or even MRIs and CAT Scans. HSA for America customers and visitors can get even greater discounts through our association with Direct Labs, often saving you up to 80%.
And don’t be afraid of hurting your doctor’s feelings when you tell him or her you will be getting your lab work done directly. Remember, your physician works for you.
Negotiate Your Medical Bills
In some societies, almost all purchases are negotiated. Here in the U.S., we typically negotiate when buying a house or car, but neglect to do so when it comes to medical bills. And if you don’t feel comfortable doing the negotiating yourself, get a professional on your side.
There are companies that know how much a procedure should really cost, and how much the competition is charging. When you use the Bill Negotiation Service we have arranged for our members, they will contact the provider and see if they can get you a lower price. If they can, you get 70% of the savings. If they cannot, it cost you nothing.
Eat Your Veggies
Ok, admit it. You already know that a Big Mac and order of fries aren’t doing a thing to keep you healthy and out of the hospital. In fact, they’re inching you in the other direction.
Wiley IV, and way too much kale
Most modern health problems are diseases of civilization. It is well documented that hunter-gathers suffer few of the modern maladies that are typical today – such as diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, or autoimmune disorders. They do suffer from snake bites and other accidents – but those who live into old age stay remarkably healthy.
The reason for this is that they are eating in the same way that our ancestors did for over 2 million years. A diet based on vegetables, fruit, meat, and fish (and avoiding grains, sugar, vegetable oils, hydrogenated fats, and other modern foods) will have a dramatic long-term effect, and will probably cut your medical costs more than anything else you can do
The Long-Term Solution
A free-market economy produces greater value for all. By participating to a greater degree in your own healthcare decisions and by taking an active role in finding ways to lower your costs, you are helping that system work.
Unfortunately, medical care has not operated in a free-market, transparent environment. But as HSAs have become more popular, that has been changing. There are more low-cost medical clinics, there is more competition among pharmacies, and even more competition among doctors for your business.
As the country struggles to find healthcare solutions that can cover everyone, the most critical piece is something that will keep costs down without rationing care. HSAs and consumer-driven solutions must be part of the package for this to work. If you agree, let your Senators and Representatives know.
P.S. – Next month we’ll talk about your HSA, and why you should be doing all you can to build up your investment fund.