18 Tips To Reduce Health Care Costs

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The unhealthier you are, the more you pay for health care. That’s a fact. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees anyone who wants it a health insurance policy at a reasonable price, but health insurance companies can charge higher premiums if you smoke. They can no longer rate you based on physical exams, but you’ll still pay more in health care costs if you’re unhealthy because you’ll need to see doctors and specialists more often. You’ll be responsible for copays and coinsurance for those visits and for any medications that are prescribed to you. You may also need a more expensive, high-tier plan if you see doctors frequently, which is the only way to offset the heavy costs of frequent visits and a high deductible.

By incorporating lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of developing chronic health conditions and lower your overall healthcare costs. There are also a few other ways you can trim your health care costs. Here’s more.

Key Takeaways

  • Health insurance companies can charge higher premiums if you smoke but not if you’re unhealthy.
  • Even with health insurance, you’ll have health care expenses each time you see a doctor or fill a prescription.
  • Staying healthy by taking preventative measures is the most cost-effective way to live.
  • If you have a chronic condition, there are many riders that can help supplement your primary health insurance policy to lessen your financial burden

It’s important to speak with your doctor before making changes to your diet and exercise routine. The tips offered in this article are intended solely for educational purposes and cannot substitute professional medical advice.

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats.

Limit processed foods, sugar and high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. If you have high cholesterol or heart issues, consider a plant-based diet. Make sure to get enough fiber in your diet and avoid fad diets. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. The better your diet, the less need for doctor visits and supplements. You’ll probably need fewer medications and will pay fewer prescription copays.

2. Exercise Regularly

Engage in physical activity at least two to three times a week, or two and a half hours a week, making sure to include both cardio workouts and weight training. Exercise can help prevent chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Exercise also prevents injury and muscular atrophy as you age. To prevent back problems, for instance, core strengthening is important. Putting in the effort to keep your body toned and fit will keep you out of the doctor’s office.

Some health insurance plans offer gym membership discounts or reimbursements. Some require you to go to the gym a certain number of times per month to qualify for the discount.

3. Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes or vaping products is not just bad for you, it shaves years off your life. Even if you never develop lung cancer or high blood pressure from it, you may develop COPD, which is a respiratory problem that afflicts many smokers, especially as they age. Quitting smoking can lead to lower health insurance premiums too. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has guaranteed everyone health insurance, insurance companies can still charge you more based on whether or not you smoke.

4. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to health issues, like liver disease and obesity. Even moderate drinking is too much for diabetics and those who want to avoid sugar in their diets. While the occasional glass of wine has its health benefits, drinking alcohol is generally not the best thing to do for your health and can even get in the way of sticking to a workout schedule.

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight by following a healthy diet reduces the risk of obesity-related health conditions and can save you lots of money in health care costs. Obesity and high cholesterol often go hand-in-hand, as do obesity and diabetes. Keep in mind that being far below a healthy weight can also have grave consequences.

6. Get Annual Check-Ups

Make sure to go for annual check-ups and recommended screenings, like for colon, prostate or breast cancer. Make sure your doctor does blood work each year too. Prevention can lead to better health and lower long-term healthcare costs. Early detection can save your life!

7. Manage Stress

High stress levels can lead to various health problems, including heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression, anxiety and gastrointestinal problems.. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga or other relaxation activities into your daily routine. Make it a point to connect with others and laugh as often as you can.

8. Drive Safely

A car accident can be medically expensive if you’re lucky enough to survive. There will be copays for hospital visits and treatment. If your deductible is high, you may have to shoulder much of the cost. Safe driving habits can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, potentially lowering auto insurance costs and health care costs.

9. Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccinations

Vaccinations can prevent the flu, Covid-19 and even pneumonia and shingles. Vaccines and accompanying boosters are often 100% covered by health insurance, whereas illness can lead to steep out-of-pocket expenses.

Insurers can no longer rate you based on your health, but you’ll pay more in health care costs if you’re not healthy.

10. Shop Around for Insurance

If you have a private individual or family health insurance plan, compare it with other plans to ensure you're getting the best value. You can get multiple quotes and details in minutes after entering your zip code on this page. Remember that you can only buy health insurance during the Open Enrollment Period, unless you have a qualifying event for a Special Enrollment Period, like changing jobs, having a baby or getting married/divorced.

11. Maintain Good Hygiene

As we learned during the Covid pandemic, washing your hands frequently and not touching your face go a long way in preventing illness and reducing medical expenses.

12. Ask for Generic Medications

Often doctors go ahead and prescribe the generic, but if you want to save a couple of dollars, ask your doctor to prescribe you the generic. Generic medications are just as effective as their brand name counterparts but often are a fraction of the cost.

13. Contact Telehealth

If it’s not an urgent need or it’s just a minor issue you’re having, telehealth is a cost-effective alternative to visiting your primary care doctor. Most insurance companies ask for a smaller copayment.

14. Buy Medication From a Trusted Online Pharmacy

Ordering from an online pharmacy will enable you to buy a bulk supply for a lower co-pay. You must speak with your prescribing doctor about writing the appropriate prescription. Make sure the pharmacy is a verified and trusted one.

15. Buy Supplemental Health Insurance

You can buy a hospital indemnity plan or an accident insurance plan just to have all expenses covered if you’re suddenly very ill or are injured. There are also many riders you can buy to supplement your existing coverage, depending on your needs, but these are not meant to be your only health insurance coverage:

  • Critical Illness Rider: This rider provides additional coverage for specific critical illnesses, such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer or organ failure. It pays a lump-sum benefit upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness, in addition to the hospitalization benefit.
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) Rider: AD&D riders offer additional benefits in the event of accidental death, loss of a limb, or loss of sight due to an accident. The rider pays out a lump-sum benefit to the policyholder or beneficiaries.
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Rider: This rider provides extra benefits if the insured person is admitted to the ICU during a hospital stay. It offers a higher benefit amount for ICU confinement.
  • Additional Daily Hospital Benefit Rider: An additional daily hospital benefit rider increases the daily benefit amount paid to the policyholder for each day spent in the hospital. This can help cover higher hospitalization costs.
  • Outpatient Surgery Rider: Some policies offer coverage for outpatient surgeries or medical procedures that do not require overnight hospitalization. This rider can help cover associated expenses.
  • Recuperative Care Rider: A recuperative care rider provides benefits for post-hospitalization recovery expenses, such as physical therapy, rehabilitation and home healthcare services.
  • Prescription Drug Rider: This rider covers the cost of prescription medications prescribed during a hospital stay or related to a covered accident or illness.
  • Ambulance Services Rider: Ambulance services can be costly, and some primary health insurance policies only cover a fraction of the costs. This rider covers the cost of ambulance transportation to and from the hospital.
  • Extended Benefit Period Rider: An extended benefit period rider extends the coverage period beyond the standard policy term, providing benefits for a longer duration during recovery.
  • Family Coverage Rider: This rider allows policyholders to extend coverage to family members, such as a spouse or children, under the same policy. It is convenient for households with multiple individuals.
  • Recovery Care Rider: Recovery care riders offer benefits for post-hospitalization recovery expenses, including at-home nursing care, home modifications and medical equipment.
  • Cancer Rider: Some hospital indemnity policies offer riders specifically tailored to provide coverage for a cancer diagnosis and treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Infectious Disease Rider: Some insurers offer riders that provide coverage in the event of infectious disease-related hospitalization or treatment.

16. Buy a Higher Tier Health Insurance Policy

Sometimes, buying a higher tier health insurance policy will save you money despite the higher monthly premium. If there is more coverage for services, you will pay a lower copay and coinsurance. If you have a PPO, your deductible will be lower, so your care will be covered sooner. Do the math to see what you paid in out-of-pocket expenses last year and compare that to what the cost would be with a higher tier plan, taking into account each plan’s monthly premium price.

17. Ask About Out-patient Surgery Options

If you know you have a surgery coming up, see if there is an out-patient option for you, so you don’t have to pay the costs associated with a hospital stay. Of course, this would only apply to more routine procedures, not complicated ones that require medical supervision.

18. Open a Health Savings Account (HSA)

If you have a high deductible health plan (HDHP) or if your employer offers one, open an HSA with pre-tax dollars. The money can be used for any medical-related expenses.

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Reducing Health Care Costs FAQs

How can I reduce prescription medication costs?

First, ask your doctor for generic prescriptions. Also, consider an online pharmacy that will allow you to buy in bulk for discounts. Also check for manufacturer coupons and patient assistance programs. Look into prescription discount cards and apps.

Is telemedicine cheaper than an in-office visit?

Telemedicine is often a cheaper option to in-office doctor visits because it has a lower copay.

What should I do if I have an emergency and can’t cover the related expenses?

If you do not have an emergency fund to cover unexpected medical costs, contact the provider and try to lower the bill. Set up a payment plan if necessary or else it’ll go into collections.

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