Weather Forecast


Editorial - Here's how to save health care costs

Everyone's talking about the skyrocketing costs of healthcare these days.

While politicians and the courts fight over which approach will work best and what is constitutional, there are some things the everyday person can do to save money on their own healthcare costs without compromising their health.

The newspaper received these 10 tips from the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants (MNCPA):

• Mail order meds. How long would you hesitate if shoes, or a round of golf, were buy one, get one free? Probably not very long. So why not take advantage of similar offers for medications you take monthly? There is an abundance of mail-order pharmacies offering different deals. Check with your health insurance provider to see what they offer.

• Generically speaking. Talk to your doctor about switching from a brand name drug to a generic alternative. A recent study showed that generic drugs are 30 to 80 percent less expensive than their brand-name counterparts.

• Hang with the in crowd. The heath care "in crowd" means in your network. Some health plans offer options for both in- and out-of-network options, but you'll likely pay more for seeing an out-of-network doctor or going to an out-of-network facility. Emergencies happen and you may have to roam outside of your network on occasion, but stay in network whenever possible. You may also want to consider an HMO plan.

• Visit the digital doc. It may feel like you're starring in an episode of The Jetsons, but more and more doctors are consulting with patients digitally, using tools ranging from e-mail to Web video to discuss mild, simple conditions with patients. Doctors charge far less for digital visits than for the in-person version. Often the fee is around $20 to $35. Note: If your ailment is something you would have gone to the emergency room for prior to the digital age, you should still go to the emergency room.

• Focus on wellness. With health care costs skyrocketing, companies are encouraging employees to take better care of themselves and reduce health care expenses by adopting healthy eating and exercise habits, stopping smoking and reducing stress. Check with your employer to see what wellness programs are available to you.

• Don't leave money on the table. If you put money in a flexible spending account, be sure not to forget about it because if you don't spend it by the deadline, you'll lose it. Know the deadlines at your company, and know what expenses qualify for reimbursement. It's your money - spend it.

• Emergency versus non-emergency. If you have a serious, life-threatening medical situation, the emergency room is the place for you. However, don't dash down to the local hospital for minor conditions your family doctor can handle. The difference in what you pay could be hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.

• Evaluate your policy. You don't want to be over insured or under insured - you want your insurance to be just right. If you purchase too much insurance, you're spending money that might be better off going into a special fund in case of an emergency. If you're under insured, you may end up without important coverage. Review your plan each year to allow for family or health changes.

• Get out your magnifying glass. Studies show that approximately 80 percent of bills from health care providers contain errors. Make sure you aren't paying for someone else's mistake.

• Divide and conquer. You're part of a family of five, but that doesn't mean you all need to be on the same plan, or even with the same insurer. You may find you can save money by choosing specific plans to meet each individual's needs. Note: Don't drop any coverage until you're sure you're approved and covered for new insurance elsewhere.

Readers should consider these 10 tips for improving their health - and finances.