17 Smart Hacks for Slashing Health Care Costs

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health care hacksThis post originally appeared on All You.

Save on Doctor Visits

The costs for appointments and procedures can be more flexible than you think.

Get a Bid
You’d have no issue getting estimates from three handymen before fixing a sink, right? You can do the same with a physician if you’re paying by cash or credit card (a possibility for those without health insurance or those with a high deductible). On medibid.com you can enter basic health information and the type of doctor or procedure you need (a colonoscopy, say), then within about a week you receive bids from doctors who are willing to do the work. Many include testing and even follow-up visits in their fee because they still make more than they would from an insurer’s reimbursement. Physicians’ qualifications are listed on the site, but it’s also a good idea to check for patient reviews on Yelp and zocdoc.com. After deciding to accept the offer, you can call the doctor directly to arrange your appointment. Note: MediBid charges $25 to submit your procedure for a bid, but that cost is usually more than offset by what you save overall.

Check on a Cheaper Option
If you have a recurring back or joint injury, ask the doctor whether an X-ray (cost: about $200) would yield the same information as a pricier MRI (about $900). It’s also OK to inquire whether you need a procedure at all; see a list of treatments and practices that major medical-specialty organizations say might have little or no value (based on scientific research) at choosingwisely.org.

Let Your Insurer Help
Major insurers such as Aetna and United Healthcare now have Web tools that allow members to look up pricing for procedures and doctors in their area, so they can choose one with a lower cost—or set aside the appropriate amount in their flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) every year.

Don’t Stray By Mistake
Although it’s easy to pick a physician under your insurer’s umbrella, you can unintentionally find yourself going out of network at the hospital. Even if the facility and surgeon are in network, your stay might include visits from an anesthesiologist and specialty doctors who aren’t covered. Call the hospital ahead of time and ask who is covered, and request that you see only those doctors. Also, when there, you should ideally have a family member or patient advocate help you double-check, especially if you are medicated and not thinking clearly.