By BankingMyWay Staff
A recent study commissioned by the Business Roundtable, an alliance of major U.S. CEOs, reported that U.S. consumers get 23% less value for every health care dollar they spend compared to other leading nations, such as Canada, Germany and Japan. The findings should come as no surprise to most Americans. But though health care reform was a part of President Barack Obama’s campaign platform, many consumers don't have the luxury of waiting around for the system to get overhauled.
In the meantime, here are five tips on reducing your health care costs:
1. Budget your expenses: Make a budget of your yearly health care expenses. This will help when it comes to setting up your household budget, but it can also help you set aside an appropriate amount of money in a flexible savings account (FSA). An FSA allows you to set aside pretax dollars to pay for qualified health care costs.
"While not all costs are predictable, some are," says Susan Pisano, vice president of communications at America's Health Insurance Plans, a national association of health insurance providers. "And you'll be better served by anticipating those expenses and setting aside the money ahead of time."
2. Stay in network: If your insurance plan involves a network of physicians and hospitals that doesn't include your doctor, then your co-pay for each office visit is probably higher than it needs to be. To save money, consider switching to a doctor listed under your carrier's network of providers, or choose a carrier that includes your preferred doctor in its network.
3. Get picky with drugs: Consider filling your prescription with generic drugs through the mail. "Not everyone benefits predictably from the same drug, but generics are less expensive," says Pisano. "And mail order refills are almost always cheaper than filling a prescription at a pharmacy." You can check with your carrier for a recommended mail order pharmacy.
4. Crunch the numbers on your plan: When choosing insurance, don't just compare the cost of the premiums. Take the time to work out the overall cost differences based on the deductibles, the co-pays and any differences in specific services that are covered. To help with this, check out the Budget Calculator offered by Humana (Stock quote: HUM). When it’s time to shop around for coverage, head to BankingMyWay.com's Insurance Center. There you'll find competitive quotes from major providers in your area, such as Aetna (Stock quote: AET) and Cigna (Stock quote: CI).
5. Stay healthy: The best way to trim your health care costs is to improve your chances of staying healthy. That involves getting your screening tests done when you are supposed to, and working towards a healthy and active lifestyle. "Paying the co-pay is less expensive then getting sick," says Pisano. "And taking good care of yourself by staying active and quitting smoking is the most cost effective approach in the long run."
—For more ways to save, spend, invest and borrow, visit MainStreet.com.