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The high costs of healthcare are a barrier to care, especially for women, who are more likely to leave medical needs unmet than men. So here are some tips to get in front of health care expenses:
Consider a high-deductible plan: If your current plan’s premiums are getting pricey—or if you have no plan at all—think about a high deductible option. However, if you have chronic conditions that incur a significant amount of insurance claims, a high deductible plan may not be for you. Compare your total out-of-pocket costs (premiums + deductible/copays/coinsurance) carefully.
Consider an HMO or managed care network: HMO’s are generally less expensive options with limited copays. Make sure you know whether your doctors are in the network – or consider if you are willing to change doctors for the savings in premium and out of pocket expenses.
Sign up for a Health Savings Account (HSA): If you are enrolled in a High /deductible Health plan, you are eligible for an HSA. The benefit of an HSA is that the money goes in pretax and grows tax-free, and if you use it to pay for medical expenses, withdrawals are tax-free. It can lower the cost of medical care by up to one-third.
Sign up for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA): Usually offered through your employer, FSA’s have similar tax benefits to HSA’s for eligible health care expenses. Estimate your yearly expenses carefully; FSA contributions are “use it or lose it” for the calendar year in which you’re contributing.
Stash money in a separate savings account: Save separately for unexpected healthcare expenses. Try an auto deduction of $75-100 a paycheck to cover these expenses. And don’t touch the money for anything other than medical emergencies!
Know before you go: Get estimates for tests, procedures, and other high-cost medical expenses before you undergo the treatment. Ask your healthcare provider for a pre-treatment estimate so you can budget for your portion of the cost. This applies to dental as well as medical bills.
Investigate claims that have been denied: Get a thorough understanding as to why the claim was denied – sometimes it can be a simple clerical error.
Ask for a payment plan: If you are hit with a high medical bill, ask the doctor or hospital about a payment plan. It’s likely they’d agree to a scheduled payment plan if you’re in difficult financial shape. They’d rather get some payment than no payment at all. Even if the balance is your responsibility, ensure all discounts offered through your insurance carrier have been applied.
Ask questions about medical charges: Always inquire about charges on your medical bills that don’t seem right. You shouldn’t pay for medical expenses unless you are clear about the charge and how it is covered (or not) under your insurance plan.
When it comes to health insurance women are considered a higher risk than men because they tend to visit the doctor more frequently, live longer and have babies.
Prescription Drugs can be expensive, and insurance companies often have funny rules about generics and name brands, among other things. Here are some tips to save money on this part of your healthcare costs.
Negotiate a discount at the Pharmacy and don’t be afraid to ask if you’re getting the best possible deal. A pharmacy may be able to offer coupons or lower the price of your prescription drug to match a competitor’s.
Pay out-of-pocket. Some medications are cheaper when you don’t go through insurance. To compare, have the pharmacist ring up the item both with and without your insurance.
Ask your doctor for free samples. Physicians often have samples they are happy to provide as well as coupons from the manufacturer for expensive medications that can save you money at the pharmacy.
Look for a Patient-Assistance Program. If you can’t afford a medication, you may qualify to receive free or discounted drugs. Visit the manufacturer’s website to learn whether you qualify.
Sign up for a mail-order pharmacy. Some insurance plans offer a discount to people who buy from sites like expressscripts.com and caremark.com. This is usually a great option for medications you take on a regular basis.
Research low-cost providers. If you know about a treatment or checkup ahead of time, you may be able to find an office or clinic that provides reduced-cost care. Many cities have counseling centers, women’s health clinics, and emergency care centers that provide affordable appointments. Do an Internet search under “community clinics and health centers” with the name of your city to find low cost or free healthcare service providers.
Call your state Medicaid agency. If your income falls below a certain state threshold or if you have significant income loss due to a medical problem, you may qualify for Medicaid benefits. Find your local Health and Human Services department or go to Medicaid.gov.
Determine if you qualify for Medicare. If you are a U.S. citizen, age 65 or older, have end stage renal disease (ESRD), or you have received Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) for 24 months, you would qualify for Medicare.
Women still face a greater financial hardship than men when it comes to paying for healthcare. One in four women report putting off care for financial reasons, compared with one in five men.
So you’ve been hit with a totally unexpected healthcare bill. Don’t freak out – there are some strategies you can use to help alleviate and manage your healthcare expenses without going into financial debt.
Talk to the hospital or medical provider about reducing your bills. It is a good idea to talk to the hospital just after you receive care and before you are billed. Many hospitals offer grants and/or financial assistance to uninsured or under-insured patients who cannot afford their medical bills.
Negotiate a payment plan with the provider. Whether or not you have received financial assistance, the payment plan helps you avoid interest accrual on your bills and the possibility that it will be sent to a collection agency. For large bills, you may be able to pay over a period of years.
Talk to your church or synagogue. If you are a member, many churches use their collection funds or charity events to help those who are sick and in need of money for treatment. Write a letter or seek counsel from other church members in order to approach the need for assistance.
Research non-profit organizations that support people with your illness. Cancer, diabetes, HIV, heart and many other diseases have organizations that give aid to people suffering from a specific disease. Contact organizations in your state and then on a national level. Examples of non-profit associations include The American Cancer Society, Gilda’s Club (cancer), The National Heart Association, AIDS Action Foundation, and The American Diabetes Association.
Go to Benefits.gov to look for government assistance. Fill out the online form that asks you what type of benefits you are looking for, your home state, your age, family size, income and other applicable information. The site will provide you with a list of state and national agencies that may be able to offer you medical financial assistance.
Apply for government grants. Go online to governmentgrants.us to find out what programs are available for your situation. You will need to fill out a long application with personal information, medical records and possibly a written statement. Ask for a contact name and number so that you can check on your application.