A survey published in the November 2006 Money magazine, stated that 35 percent of Americans report rising costs have caused them to cut back on needed healthcare by doing things like skipping doctor visits, or failing to refill their prescriptions. Learn how to "shop for value" when spending your healthcare dollar, you can cut thousands of dollars from your medical care costs and end up healthier as well. Here are 11 ways to start cutting your healthcare costs today!
Out-of-pocket medical costs went up more than 100 percent between 2000 and 2005, while wages grew only 18 percent. A survey published in the November 2006 Money magazine, stated that 35 percent of Americans report rising costs have caused them to cut back on needed healthcare by doing things like skipping doctor visits, or failing to refill their prescriptions. Being forced to choose either sound health or financial security is unfair, unacceptable, and unnecessary. By investing a little time and energy into learning how to "shop for value" when spending your healthcare dollar, you can cut thousands of dollars from your medical care costs and end up healthier as well. Here are 11 ways to start cutting your healthcare costs today:
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE: The same formula for keeping your car expenses down will work for your medical expenses. Burn the fuel for which your engine was designed (hint: it should come straight from nature, like water, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and fish). Do the necessary maintenance and make sure you know your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, waist measurement, blood sugar) and make sure they are in the ideal ranges.
CHOOSE WISELY: Don't just opt for the path of least resistance when signing up for your health plan. Make sure your doctors are going to be "in network," your deductibles and co-pays are reasonable, and the prescription drug plan is compatible with your needs. If you are 65 or older, make sure you sign up for Medicare Part D. Most of our Medicare patients are saving thousands of dollars each year in prescription drugs. The so-called donut hole in Medicare D can be a problem. However, excellent generic options are becoming available for most of the cardiovascular drugs.
ASK FOR SAMPLES: If you are having a hard time paying for your brand name prescription medications, make sure you let us know and we can often help by providing you with free samples and/or getting you connected to programs generously sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies which provide free or deeply discounted prescription drugs.
ASK FOR GENERICS: Generic medications are usually dramatically less expensive than brand name counterparts; many are now only $4 per month. This typically translates into yearly savings of about $1,000 for a single prescription. Check with your doctor to find out if the drug you need has an acceptable generic option.
CONSIDER SPLITTING PILLS: Many prescription drugs these days are so-called "flat" priced. For example, the price of Crestor, a popular and effective cholesterol- lowering drug, is approximately $80 per month for the 10 mg, 20 mg and 40 mg tablets. This means that by asking for the 40 mg Crestor tablet and splitting it in quarters, you can cut your cost for this medication by 75 percent, if you are paying out of pocket.
SHOP AROUND: The prices on prescription drugs vary widely. For example, generic Zocor (simvastatin) will vary anywhere from $8 per month to $160 per month, depending on the pharmacy you choose. Call a sample of pharmacies in your area to get a price quote for your prescriptions. The best prices are sometimes found at large discounters such as Costco and Wal-Mart, but frequently your own neighborhood pharmacy may be as economical and more convenient. Or, if you can, get 90-day prescriptions; usually the costs are substantially less.
REDUCE YOUR STRESS: Experts estimate that between 60 to 90 percent of diseases are, at least in part, related to stress. Try to "chill out" a bit. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, get out and get some fresh air, take a yoga class, dance to music, watch a sunrise or sunset with a loved one, take a vacation, or just slow down and be grateful for your blessings. Work naps into your schedule. A large recent study showed by napping for about 30 minutes at least three times weekly, you can cut your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 30 percent.
KICK THE HABIT: On average, cigarettes cost $4.35 a pack, adding up to almost $1,500 per year for the average smoker. That is just the tip of the iceberg. By smoking, you will likely encounter $1,600 a year more in healthcare costs, with a 10 percent surcharge on homeowners insurance and a 300 percent increase in individual life insurance costs. It has never been easier to quit smoking than in 2007. A revolutionary new drug by the name of Chantix, is now available. This prescription medication blocks the nicotine receptors in the brain, thus eliminating the cravings for cigarettes. You will still need to make up your mind that it is finally your time to quit. When you do, Chantix will greatly improve your chances of being successful. Just think of all the money you will save in the long run (not to mention the years of vigorous life you will be adding).
FLOSS DAILY: It's amazing how important a healthy smile is to your overall health. When my kids ask if they need to floss all their teeth, I tell them, "No, just the ones you want to keep."
FOLLOW DOCTOR'S ORDERS: About 50 percent of all patients do not follow precisely the instructions about taking their medications; and this has been estimated to account for up to 10 percent of all hospitalizations. In addition to your doctors and nurses, your local pharmacist is a valuable resource to ensure that you are taking your medications properly.
TAKE OWNERSHIP IN YOUR HEALTH: By far, the single best way to save thousands of dollars on your health bills is to focus on taking care of yourself. By paying close attention to your own habits and overall health, and taking real ownership interest in these issues, you will dramatically improve your long-term wellness, while reducing your healthcare costs.
Dr. James O’Keefe is a practicing preventive cardiologist at Cardiovascular Consultants of the Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute located in Kansas City, MO. He is actively involved with clinical research, has published over 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and is the lead author of several books including The Forever Young Diet & Lifestyle.