The cost of living for older adults is challenging enough with social security checks getting smaller and retirement funds being drained. Plus, it doesn’t help that health care is not becoming more affordable and medical bills can pile up before the blink of an eye! However, there are ways you can reduce your medical bills and ensure a more care-free financial situation:
Determine the Cost of Payment
Before you agree to a health care service, be sure to ask your doctor about pricing and how much insurance typically covers. This will give you a better idea of what you will have to contribute out of pocket for the services. Granted, if it is an emergency, you may not have time to get the cost of the procedure or service beforehand. However, if possible, gather all necessary billing information before agreeing to the service. If it’s out of your price range, you may be able to work around that if you know beforehand.
Avoid Seeing Out-of-Network Doctors
Without insurance, most medical appointments and procedures are extremely expensive. If you are seeing a physician that does not take your insurance, your bills are likely going to be overwhelming. Research local doctors in your area who take your insurance provider and try to go to them versus a doctor that doesn’t take your insurance. It is important to note that it may be necessary to go to a doctor that doesn’t take your insurance if it is an emergency or another unique situation. Just be vocal with your doctor and understand your options before making your decision.
Ask About Discounts and Financial Assistance
Quite often there are discounts or financial assistance available for patients with uncovered insurance plans or for people with lower incomes, so always ask your doctor what is available. Many physicians will not mention this to you unless you ask, so don’t count on your health care provider to offer you discounts upfront. Many may not remember if there are certain discounts unless you inquire and request more information. You also may get a discount if you offer to pay for the service or procedure in cash.
Look for Medical Bill Errors
Medical bills are often filled with confusing jargon, but if you know what to look for, you can easily spot an error. On most medical bills there are medical codes to make it easier for insurance companies and health care providers to find the information they need. If there is a medical code on your medical bill, you can look up that code to figure out its meaning. This is also a way for you to make sure that the medical code is listed under the appropriate section. If listed wrong, insurance companies could deny paying for any amount of the bill because the information was given to them incorrectly. Avoid this by looking over each medical bill, looking up listed medical codes, and ensuring the information is correctly placed.
If you are confused and are unable to understand your medical bill, you can call your insurance agency or your health care provider’s billing department and request that they explain the bill to you in full and find any errors if there are any.
Pay Your Medical Bills on Time
Although pressing situations may happen where you can’t meet the deadline of a due date, try your best to pay your medical bills on time. This will help you avoid late fees as well as keep your bill from being sent to collections. Ultimately, simply paying your bills on time could save you a great deal of money down the road. If you are unable to pay your bill on time, contact your health care provider right away and let them know of your situation. If you are upfront with them, they will be more likely to work with you and may even waive the late fee if you are able to come to an agreement that works for both of you.
Opt for Generic Perscription Drugs when Possible
With nearly 80% of prescription drugs being sold as generic, it can save you money if you avoid the more expensive, name-brand drugs and opt for generic. More often than not, the quality of a generic drug is just as high as its name-brand equivalent.The FDA requires all generic drugs to undergo a standardization process to ensure they are quality and safe to take, so you don’t need to worry about generic drugs being unsafe. Studies estimate you could save at least, if not more than, two-thirds of your prescription costs by opting for the generic brand.
Create a Health Savings Account
If you have a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), you can enroll in a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs are useful because they’re simply a personal savings account that is only meant to pay for health expenses. This enables users with high-deductible plans to have additional funds to help them pay for costs that their health plans will not cover. This is a great way to reduce your medical bills.
Each year, unused contributions to your HSA will roll over into the next year, so you don’t have to worry about the funds expiring. However, there is a limit to how much money you can contribute to your HSA each year. For 2019, the limit is $3,500 for individuals and $7,000 for families. If you are 55 or older by the end of the tax year, you can contribute an additional $1,000.
An important detail to note is that HSAs are best for people under the age of 65, as 65 is your last eligible year to contribute to your HSA. If you are under 65 and have an HDHP, an HSA may be a good fit for you to help you reduce your medical bills.
Consider a Medical Alert System
You may be thinking “How will spending more money help me reduce my medical bills?” Well, in the long run, purchasing a medical alert system could help reduce your bills. Medical alert systems are devices meant to provide people with a quick and easy way to contact emergency and non-emergency assistance. The sooner you get help after an accident, the less time will be spent in the hospital, and the fewer medical bills there are to pay. Having a medical alert system makes your health a top priority and gives you immediate access to assistance in the case of an emergency.
Depending on the type of medical alert system you choose, there are even functionalities available for some that allow you to monitor your daily life and health by setting reminders and even keeping in touch with loved ones with text-to-speech messaging, as Medical Guardian offers. With or without medical bills, it’s important to make your health a priority, and medical alert systems help you do that. It’s a bonus that they could help you reduce your medical bills in the process!