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Seven Tips to Lower Your Health Care Costs

By Compuquotes Team on March 26th, 2008

The cost of health care has reached the proportions of a national emergency. In 2004, Americans spent $1.9 trillion on health care. Spending on health care was estimated to be 16% of the gross domestic product. On a more personal level, that's $6,280 per person for health care. The average employee group health insurance policy cost $11,500 for a family policy and $4,200 for individual coverage. If those numbers boggle your mind, you're not alone. There are ways to lower your health care costs, whether or not you have health insurance. Here are some tips on keeping health care costs low.

1. Know what your health insurance covers - and take advantage of it.
Sit down and read your plan's information book and contract through so that you know what your health insurance plan covers. Once you know, take advantage of those benefits that are designed to prevent medical problems. Schedule and keep appointments for annual physicals and recommended tests. If you suspect a medical condition, see your doctor as soon as possible. It's far easier - and less expensive - to treat most chronic conditions at early stages.

2. Stay in your network for medical care.
You can save yourself thousands of dollars a year by making sure to stay in your network of doctors when seeking second opinions and specialist care. When you see a doctor within the network, you take advantage of your insurance company's muscle to pay the negotiated price with your doctor. The same services can cost you as much as 50% more than they would with a network doctor. In addition, you could pay higher co-pays, and still be on the hook for the part of the bill that your insurance didn't cover.

3. If you must use a doctor outside your network, shop around for one that will accept the fee paid by your insurance company. Your insurance company's customer service representatives will often be happy to help you by providing a list of doctors in your area who work with the network although they are outside it.

4. If your prescription plan offers a mail service, take advantage of it for maintenance medications like high blood pressure meds and diabetic supplies. Shop around for the best price on those though. You may find that it's less expensive to order them online, or to have your prescriptions filled at a different pharmacy. While you're at it, don't forget to ask for generic drugs whenever possible, and check with your doctor on equivalent substitutes that are lower priced.

5. Practice self care.
Many of us see doctors or go to the emergency room for conditions and illnesses that can easily and safely be treated at home. If you're uncertain, call the nursing line at your doctor's office and describe your symptoms, or check with one of the free online nursing services that provides first aid and home care medical advice. In many cases, over the counter medications and simple common sense will tell you how to treat an injury or illness. Know basic first aid, and if symptoms worsen, see your doctor.

6. Seek help from drug companies
If you're low income, a senior or on a fixed income, you may qualify for free or reduced cost medication from the prescription companies that make them. Most have an outreach program that makes many of their most essential medications available for free or on a sliding scale for those who have low incomes.

7. Prevention is the key to keeping health care costs down.
It can't be said often enough. The best way to keep health care costs down is to do all you can to prevent accidents and illnesses. Keep fit and active, eat healthy and quit smoking. You'll be surprised how much less you spend on doctors.

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