How to Save Money on Household Medical Expenses

Running a household is fraught with major expenses. Not only do you have a mortgage or lease to contend with (and the attendant cost of utilities), you also have to pay for food, clothing, and transportation for adults and children alike. And while you can plan for these expenses with a fair amount of accuracy, it is the unexpected costs that can wreak havoc on your tight budget. One of the most potentially catastrophic concerns is the health and well-being of your family members. When it comes to the high cost of medical expenses, especially those that pop up unexpectedly, you can quickly find yourself deep in debt with no means to pay. So if you’re looking for ways to save when it comes to the medical needs of your family (known or unknown), here are a few tips to help you cut back.

1. Insurance. This is a pretty obvious first step. And yet, many adults continue to go uninsured, virtually betting that they won’t suffer a major injury or illness that could ruin them financially. Admittedly, the cost of health insurance is pretty steep, especially if your employer doesn’t offer a benefits package that will allow you to pay less. And if you’re a relatively healthy, fit, and active adult, the chances that you will need it are reduced. However, you may want to look into state-subsidized insurance options, which will allow you to greatly reduce your in-office costs, take advantage of cheap or even free medical procedures (especially preventive visits), and cover the entire family for less.

2. Preventive care. It can be difficult to shell out for yearly exams and dental cleanings for the whole family if you don’t have insurance, but consider the alternative. Suppose that your child gets a cavity or an abscessed tooth. The cost will be many times what you would have paid for cleanings. And if you fail to undergo regular mammograms, for example, you could end up with a cancerous tumor. Do you know how much it costs to treat cancer? Tens (potentially hundreds) of thousands of dollars. You’ll wish you had paid a couple hundred dollars for the early detection then. And again, many of these preventive procedures are offered for free (or low cost) under state health care (depending on the state).

3. Pay cash, try clinics. If you have a physician that you just love, but you can’t afford visits anymore because you have lost your insurance coverage, try talking to him/her about alternative payment options. Many offices are willing to reduce the cost of visits (by as much as half) for uninsured patients that pay cash. As an alternative, you may want to skip medical practices and opt for visits to the clinic instead, where services are cheaper because they are often performed by nurses instead of doctors, and costs are subsidized by the government. You should also use urgent care facilities instead of the ER whenever possible.

4. Haggling. For those who are already burdened by extreme medical bills, there are ways to cut them down significantly, but you’ll need to put on your haggling hat. Make an appointment with someone in the hospital’s financial department to discuss your situation. Let them know that you would like to pay, but you just don’t have the money. In most cases you can secure a reduction in what is owed (anywhere from 20-50%, or possibly even more, depending on the facility and the procedures performed). You can also work out a payment plan that will fit your budget. The hospital just wants to recoup whatever they can.

5. Prescriptions assistance. One area of ongoing concern for many families is the high cost of prescriptions. While you may be able to opt for less expensive alternatives like different brands or generics, this isn’t always possible. In this case, you can either search a US online pharmacy (or international online pharmacies) for deals, or seek out prescription assistance programs that will help to cover some of your out-of-pocket costs.

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