Have a doctor’s appointment coming up? Or, do you want to ensure that next time an emergency medical situation arises, you won’t hemorrhage money? Either way, we’ve got you covered, and we will try to stop the medical puns here. We had to take a shot at it, right? Seriously, though, the best time to prepare for either of these situations is right now, and there are a few tips and resources you should use to ensure that you get the best deal when you use any medical service. Becoming aware of them now (or downloading them to you phone, in one case) might make all the difference later.
Take the Credit Cards out of Your Wallet
You don’t want to end your visit by handing over your plastic. Whether it’s a nominal fee just for the day’s appointment or payment for an ongoing condition or procedure (such as pregnancy appointments leading up to delivery), you’ll want to pursue other options. You might be able to pay with cash or check or, even better, have the payment extended and the bill mailed to you so that you can ensure your insurance processes it appropriately.
While there may be a few situations where it’s unavoidable, you want to avoid putting medical expenses on your credit cards altogether.
Know Your Coverage
This one might sound obvious, but you need to understand the intricacies of your insurance coverage. What are your co-pays? What’s your deductible? And where do you stand in terms of meeting your deductible? Will the doctor you see routinely be in-network so you don’t have to overpay? What about emergency situations? Do you know how much an ER visit will cost? Will you be charged more for going somewhere like Patient First or Urgent Care?
You might consider calling your insurance company and asking them specific questions like this. Think about what a “worst-case scenario” might be for you (example: a trip to the emergency room when you’re out of state) and ask them outright to help explain how much that ordeal will cost, given your coverage.
Note: If you have a high deductible health plan it’s even more important to know where you stand and to be setting aside money for emergency situations on a regular basis.
Check the Healthcare Bluebook
Once you know your coverage, it’s time to compare costs. You’ll want to choose the option that minimizes your expenses after insurance. This step is particularly important for routine services and elective operations, where the cost can vary significantly but you have time to prepare in advance (non-emergency situations).
One of the best resources for this type of comparison is the Healthcare Bluebook. It’s a great tool because it shows you the “Fair Price” of what you should expect to pay for a particular sevice, based on your zip code. From there, you can (and should) call providers to ask about their specific prices, ensuring you get the best deal.
Download Prescription Drug Comparison Apps
As you probably know, medication expenses can take a toll, and when you fill a prescription you’ll often be left with at least something to pay as your responsibility, even with good insurance. It’s for this reason that you will want to be armed with information that can help you score the lowest prices on prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Luckily, there are a few tools that make this easier for you—apps that tell you the cheapest price and location to purchase the drug in your area. Two of the best and most popular are GoodRx and Lowest Med. If you aren’t tech savvy, both companies will also mail you a discount card that you can show your doctor or pharmacist to score lower prices.
Pro tip: Be sure to use the tool before your doctor sends a prescription to a particular pharmacy! Sometimes your doctor automatically sends it to the “preferred pharmacy” they have on record for you, and that would throw a kink in your money-saving plan.
You Can Do It
So there you have it. You can earn lower prices on your medical expenses! All it takes is some research and asking the right questions, combined with the right tools. If you find yourself struggling with old medical bills, or worried about how you will fit new bills into your budget, consider talking to a Clearpoint credit counselor. They can help create an action plan to manage your medical debt and get you back on track.