Nobody likes being sick. But sometimes the aftermath of sickness—medical debt—is even worse than the physical pain of certain ailments. Here are five tips to help you manage your health care costs and bring your financial stress level down a little.
1. Take advantage of preventative care.
Taking steps to prevent illness is almost always cheaper than treating it, and many health plans provide coverage for preventative care such as well-baby visits, mammograms, immunizations and more. You can also get screened for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sexually transmitted diseases or cancer. Early diagnosis often can prevent problems that require more serious, and more expensive, treatment.
2. Generics, samples and coupons.
While many of us are not afraid to ask questions about our health, some of us become shy when it comes to financial questions about medications. Don't wait until your pharmacist rings you up to deal with the problem. Instead, ask your doctor about generic medications and samples that may be available. When your needs cannot be met by a generic brand, you still have options. Talk to your doctor about choosing a brand that has manufacturer's coupons that can be used. Many people aren't aware that these are available online and miss out on big discounts.
3. Don't go to just any pharmacy
Uninsured patients using the convenient services of minute-clinics may choose to fill their prescriptions in the closest store and end up paying a higher price for drugs. Stores like Sam's Club and Costco offer lower prices on prescription drugs, and you don’t have to have a membership to take advantage of them. (Just tell the greeter that you are headed to the pharmacy.)
4. Avoid an ambulance ride
Sometimes a little planning can help save you from a ride that can cost between $400 and $1,200. It’s much cheaper and easier to have a friend or family member take you to the hospital in case of an emergency. Of course, there are cases where you need immediate care and transport to the hospital, and in these cases an ambulance could save your life.
5. Avoid the ER unless it’s an emergency
There are times when people turn to hospitals simply because they don't want to try to get an appointment at their doctor's office or it's after hours. The result: Emergency room visits that can cost hundreds of dollars.
For after-hours health care needs that are not emergencies, walk-in clinics charge substantially less – sometimes just $40. Another advantage is that the prices are often displayed up front, so you won't be receiving a surprise bill a few weeks later.
Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College.