Today's guest blogger Sarah Klein from Health.com fills us in on how to keep health care costs down without sacrificing your health.
From routine physicals to prescription drugs, medical expenses add up faster than you can say "Ahhh." In fact, more than half of women surveyed by the nonprofit research foundation The Commonwealth Fund said the rising costs of health care were keeping them from getting the procedures and medications they need.
Receiving quality care costs quite the pretty penny, whether you're insured or not. And while doctors may know what's best for your health, they may not be as concerned with your wallet. So before you swipe that credit card, make sure you're following these money-saving rules to cut back on medical expenses.
1. Get your regular meds on the cheap
Continuously shelling out for a regular prescription (lookin' at you, birth control
) can be a real drag. Find out if there are cheaper options, like ordering from legitimate, safe online vendors
, or thriftier pharmacies with low-price plans. You can also try money-saving strategies
such as buying the generic version of the medication, buying pills in bulk, or splitting higher-dose pills. 2. Don't procrastinate with Gardasil
If you plan to get the Gardasil vaccine
to protect yourself against cervical cancer
and HPV, make sure you have time to get all three doses of the vaccine before you turn 27. Administered over an eight-month span, the vaccine has only been approved by the FDA for women up to 26 years of age, so insurance will not cover any shots needed once you're past the cut-off (even if you start the process before your b-day). Out-of-pocket, these jabs can cost up to $200 each, not counting administration fees tacked on by your doctor's office. Click here
to keep reading.3. Reevaluate your vitamins
Taking a daily multivitamin
may not be worth it in the long run-if your diet covers all the recommended daily nutritional bases (a mix of fruits and veggies, lean meats, whole grains, etc). Don't bother with extra supplements, such as calcium, vitamin C, or vitamin D, unless your doctor recommends them for a specific reason. And you can ditch the vitamin-infused
waters and beverages: They're usually high in calories and chemicals, and can do more harm than good. 4. Feel Free to Bargain
Unlike the price tag on those fabulous (and completely out-of-your-budget) new fall boots, medical costs aren't always set in stone. If you're uninsured and paying out-of-pocket for hospital or doctor services, don't be afraid to try these proven ways to negotiate medical bills
. Disclosing your income may knock of a chunk of the bill, as will offering to pay with cash on the spot -- you could get as much as a 20 percent discount. If your doc wants you to try a new medication, ask if he or she has samples for you to try first, or check the drug's Web site for coupons to use at the pharmacy. 5. Choose lifestyle changes over new medication
Don't feel like adding to costs by filling a new prescription? Before your doctor signs the script, ask if there are any lifestyle changes
that might have the same effect. For example, losing weight can sometimes make diabetes or cholesterol drugs unnecessary; relaxation techniques often work better than sleeping pills
; and keeping your home free of dust and mold might just liberate you from allergy meds
. 6. Ask, "Do I really need that test"?
A 2006 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that 43 percent of patients underwent unnecessary tests at routine checkups. If your doctor orders an MRI, CT scan, or other medical exam, speak up: Besides the medical concerns of unnecessary testing, like additional exposure to harmful radiation
, you could be billed for these extra procedures. Ask why it's being ordered, whether it will cost you extra money, and what will be done afterward if the results are positive (or negative); If the answer is simply, "routine screening
," the test may be unnecessary. 7. Take a trip
Consider planning your next vacation around your next medical procedure. Medical tourism
could save you anywhere from 40 to 85 percent on health-care costs, although it does have its risks. If you're fully insured, staying at home will be your best deal. But for procedures that aren't covered (such as cosmetic surgery or dental procedures), or for patients without insurance, a trip to Mexico, Costa Rica, or even Thailand or India could add up to huge savings. Just be sure to research the doctor, facility and country extensively beforehand to avoid insurance and malpractice issues; check out the nonprofit Joint Commission International's list of accredited hospitals and labs
. 8. Get back to basics
The best way to keep your medical costs down? Don't get sick. Easier said than done, we know, but if money is tight, focus on the little things within your control. Exercise more, drink less alcohol
, wear sunscreen, floss your teeth, and wash your hands
. Covering these basics will keep you out of the doctor's office, plain and simple. Oh, and now is a perfect time to stop smoking too: Kicking that habit alone could save you thousands of dollars a year.More Good Stuff From Around the Web:Five zombie-fighting tactics that will definitely get you killed.
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