50 Ways to Save on Medical Bills from CNNMoney

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For many of us, this time of the year is for the health care open enrollment period. While selecting the right plan with the right coverage for the fmaily may save hundreds, if not thousands, out-of-pocket medical expenses, there are many (actually as many as 50) ways to cut costs as well. Yesterday, I read an article on CNNMoney which offers many money-saving tips on medical bills. Following are the highlights from the article.

  1. Ask for a deal: Call your insurer and ask about the rates it pays physicians in your area. Then ask your doctor if he'll accept a similar amount.
  2. Get the facts: The more you know about the real cost of your care, the better you'll be able to negotiate discounts.
  3. Pay up front, in cash: If you shoulder your own medical bill, paying in advance of treatment can get you a 10% discount.
  4. Look for mistakes: As many as eight out of 10 hospital bills contain errors, increasing the tab by 25% on average. Keep a log of every test and medication you get, and check it against your medical file.
  5. Check up before you check in: Call your doctor to get the names of the medical providers who will be involved in your treatment, and verify with your insurer that they're in the network.
  6. Track your spending: Use programs such as Quicken's Medical Expense Manager to track your spending and alert you to potential savings such as overlooked tax deductions and possible billing errors.
  7. Follow doctor's orders: Simply doing what you're told can save you your out-of-pocket share of the average $8,200 cost of a hospital stay.
  8. Equip yourself: Bring (or buy) your own equipment such as crutches or braces instead of letting your hospital get them for you.
  9. Seek smart counsel: Use a certified counselor or clinical social worker (average fee: $90 an hour) instead of a psychologist for mental-health therapy.
  10. Visit a retail health clinic: Visit a walk-in clinic found at retail stores like CVS and Wal-Mart for minor illness such as Got an earache or upset stomach to save up to 25%.
  11. Choose wisely: Don't keep the same health plan year after year. Use your past annual medical spendings as a guideline to choose a plan that best suits your family's medical needs.
  12. Widen your network: If you have to use out-of-network providers, call your insurer's pre-certification department to explain your situation and ask for coverage at in-network rates.
  13. Follow the rules: Read the fine print on your plan to find out your insurer's requirements for referrals and pre-certification.
  14. Get what you deserve: Check your insurer's website or call the help line to see if your plan covers alternative medicine treatments.
  15. Don't be denied: Don't just let it go if your insurer denied your claim. Fight back by calling customer service or putting your appeal in writing. Document everything, including the times of calls and the names of the reps you spoke with.
  16. Hire expert help: Consider hiring a professional billing and claims specialist to help you resolve disputes. The fees may be steep, but your savings could be big.
  17. Check yourself out: Before signing up for a new insurance policy, go to MIB.com to see whether this insurance industry antifraud group has a file on you. Request a free copy to make sure the information provided about your health status is right.
  18. Consider an HSA: If you have a high-deductible health plan (at least $1,050 for individuals; $2,100 for families), you are eligible to fund a health savings account (HSA).
  19. Stay insured: Leaving your job next year? Switch to the lowest-cost plan during this year's open enrollment. Then, after you quit, federal rules (known as COBRA) will let you stay on your employer's health plan for up to 18 months, although you'll usually have to pay the full cost.
  20. Be flexible: Add up your co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket medical expenses from last year to figure out how much to put into your flexible spending account. For every $1,000 you put in, you'll slash about $300 in taxes.
  21. Don't lose it: You'll forfeit any funds in your FSA that you don't use by the end of the year or by March of the following year. Why not stock up on over-the-counter medical supplies like Band-Aids, cold and flu tablets and aspirin?
  22. Game the system: If you're close to the dollar limit for doctor or dental visits in a calendar year, book half your appointments in December and the rest in January.
  23. Take the write-off: The IRS allows you to deduct medical bills that exceed 7.5% of your gross income.
  24. Grab generics: Whenever you can, opt for generic drugs, which on average cost less than a third as much as their brand-name counterparts.
  25. Go postal: Call your drug insurer and ask if you can order your prescriptions directly from the plan, which can save you 15% to 35% on your monthly co-payments at the pharmacy.
  26. Split 'em up: Ask your doctor if you can safely split a higher-dosage pill in half as high-dose pills are generally priced the same as their low-dose counterparts.
  27. Ask for samples: Your doctor may be able to supply you with several weeks' worth of medication at no charge.
  28. Shop Mom and Pop: Your medicine costs can vary widely depending on where you buy. Go to discounters like Costco, Wal-Mart, and other drugstores for the best prices.
  29. Find a cheaper alternative: Ask your doctor about a therapeutic substitute or an older drug in the same category as the brand-name drug.
  30. Buy online: The best deal may be just a few clicks away.
  31. Sign up for Medicare part D: If you're 65 or older and don't currently have drug coverage, sign up the government's drug plan for seniors as soon as you can.
  32. Go for the discount: Visit the Partnership for Prescription Assistance website (pparx.org) for more than 400 patient-assistance programs offering discounts on more than 2,500 medications.
  33. Stick with the plan: Use in-network dentists as well.
  34. Join a discount club: Enroll in a discount dental plan, offered through major insurance companies like Aetna, Cigna and WellPoint if you don't have dental coverage.
  35. Go to dental school: A clinic at a major dental school may save you even more on dental bills.
  36. Choose cheaper fillings: Choose amalgam fillings over resin-based fillings. They are not just cheaper, but last longer too.
  37. Don't pay retail: Don't buy your contact lens from optical retailers or your doctor's office. Go to Costco or go online for better prices.
  38. Forgo pricey extras: Forget about the anti-reflective coating on your lenses and pass up ultralightweight titanium frames.
  39. Take an aspirin: because it can sharply lower your risk of a heart attack, especially for men over 40, women past menopause or a smoker.
  40. Stress less: Reduce stress by taking a yoga class, listening to music and exercising for at least 30 minutes a day.
  41. Stub your butt: Quit and save on health-care costs, homeowners insurance, individual life insurance, and dry-cleaning and dental bills.
  42. Put a cork in it: Save money and stay healthy – have no more than one drink a day if you're a woman, two if you're a man.
  43. Get moving: Keep yourself in shape so you don't have to worry obesity and related medical costs.
  44. Get a lunchbox: Why not? Taste good, save money, and consume less fat.
  45. Drink from the tap: Bottled water has no proven benefit yet you keep drinking it.
  46. Wash up: The best way to prevent flu: soap and water. Get into the habit of scrubbing your hands for about 15 seconds.
  47. Let the boss help: Take advantage of any wellness benefits that your company offers.
  48. Adult-proof your home: So you won't have an accident at home and won't need emergency room visits.
  49. Floss daily: It's the best way to prevent periodontal disease.
  50. Question your tests: When it comes medical tests, sticking to the baseline exams rather than going for cutting-edge medical tests may means thousands in savings. And be sure to check U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfix.htm) for recommended tests.

Click here to read the full article. 

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