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How to Reduce Healthcare Costs (5 Ways)

Today, we’ll cover five strategies that can help you maintain your health[0] and, as a result, may help reduce healthcare costs along the way.

  • See your doctor regularly
  • Know your body. Perform self-exams.
  • Save the emergency room for emergencies
  • Take care of yourself
  • Practice safety and hygiene

Did you know that having health insurance improves your access to medical services? The uninsured are less likely than those with insurance to receive preventive care and services for chronic diseases.[1]

Ready to get health coverage? Remember, ACA-qualifying health coverage is the best option for access to low or no-cost preventive health services.

If you can’t enroll in a major medical plan now, you can apply for a non-ACA option like short term medical insurance year-round. You’ll still receive some level of coverage for hospitalization and emergency services if you qualify, though coverage does not include the essential health benefits and doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions.

Want to find out how much a short term policy could cost you?

Get a Short Term Medical Insurance Quote

1. See your doctor regularly

It’s debatable whether or not preventive care can really reduce your overall healthcare spending, but it is clear that prevention and early detection can help improve your health outcomes and quality of life (both of which can impact your ability to generate income).[2]

Even if you must pay out of pocket for an annual doctor’s appointment, there is value in being able to catch problems early with recommended screenings, or prevent problems through better health habits and vaccinations.

And there could be cost-savings – for example, if you can avoid costly prescription medications by adjusting your diet and activity level, you could save a potentially significant amount of money over time.[3]

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many preventive services are covered at no cost to you. That means no copayments, co-insurance, or deductible will be charged for a range of services including wellness visits; screenings such as blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity and immunizations including the flu shot, hepatitis A and B, and tetanus.[4]

Learn more about what preventive services are covered under the ACA.

Are Annual Exams Really Free? Maybe Not.
While some wellness visits are covered completely by the ACA, annual physicals often come with a copay. Additionally, even if you do visit the doctor for a “free” wellness exam, if your doctor orders tests relating to a health complaint that surfaces during the appointment (like pain), the visit may become subject to your deductible or coinsurance.

An annual physical typically involves an exam by a doctor along with bloodwork or other tests and may be subject to your copay, deductible or coinsurance.

An annual wellness visit generally doesn’t include a physical exam, except to check routine measurements such as height, weight and blood pressure.[5]

Need help finding a general practitioner? A good first step is exploring your insurance provider’s portal and searching for a doctor that fits your criteria (location, availability, gender preference). Finding a doctor in your network can also help keep your out-of-pocket costs down.

2. Know your body. Perform self-exams

When you’re paying attention to how to reduce healthcare costs, paying attention to your body can help by allowing you to find potential problems before they become major health concerns.

For example, women (and men) are encouraged to perform monthly breast self-exams. These are not necessarily an effective screening tool, but a way to become aware of the normal look and feel so changes can be more easily detected.[6]

Other recommended, simple self-exams may include:[7]

  • Belly fat – for heart disease, some cancers, sleep apnea, diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Heart rate check
  • Testicular self-exam, for cancer
  • Oral check, for gum disease and oral cancer
  • Skin check, for cancer

If you feel a physical change or just generally out-of-sorts without explanation, an appointment with your regular doctor is the place to start – and can be less expensive than seeing a specialist.[8]

If you need to see a specialty doctor, your primary care physician will be able to give you a recommendation or referral.[9]

Telemedicine is another potentially convenient and useful resource to help you get access to healthcare. Telemedicine is not insurance but provides access to virtual health consultations with licensed physicians 24/7/365. The types of conditions telemed is best for are chronic, non-acute conditions like ear infections, colds, sinus infections and skin dermatitis.

Get Telemedicine

3. Save the emergency room for emergencies

Emergency rooms should be the first choice if time is critical, such as if you’re seriously injured, or experiencing symptoms of cardiac arrest or stroke. That said, emergency room treatment is expensive and many conditions can be addressed less expensively elsewhere.[10]

If you need to see a healthcare provider for a sore throat or minor injury, consider a trip to a retail walk-in clinic, an urgent care facility, a telemedicine service or see if you can make a same-day or next-day appointment with your primary care doctor.

Remember, while urgent care will cost less than the ER, it will still likely be more expensive than a regular doctor’s appointment.[11]

If you don’t currently have health insurance coverage for the emergency room or urgent care, consider obtaining a health insurance policy to help defray the costs of unexpected illness or injury.

Short term health insurance may be a good option for these types of healthcare services if you’re between major medical plans. That said, short term insurance typically does not cover routine doctor’s office visits or preventive care.

Find plan options and costs available to you by getting a quote. It just takes a few minutes.

Get a Short Term Health Insurance Quote

4. Practice healthy habits every day

A healthy diet of nutritious foods[12] and regular exercise[13] could help reduce healthcare costs over time. Chronic conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes are tied to unhealthy eating patterns.[14]

Your healthy lifestyle can help save you money on prescription drugs and potentially reduce doctor’s office visits because of chronic conditions.[15]

Beyond the basics of eating well and getting regular physical activity, getting help with potentially unhealthy habits, such as overeating, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse can boost your overall health. Support for each of these is part of ACA preventive care.[16]

You can get started by contacting your insurance company or accessing your member portal to locate providers in your network, or by scheduling a visit with your primary care physician who can provide a referral.

5. Practice common sense safety and hygiene

A little common sense can also go a long way toward reducing healthcare costs.

When exercising or playing sports, make sure you and your family members wear the necessary protective equipment, including mouth guards, helmets and pads.[17] And when spending time outside, wear sunscreen!

Keep chemicals and choking hazards away from small children by placing them in cupboards that are out of reach and installing child-proof latches (and don’t forget the garage).

Slow down and focus on one task at a time, whether you’re at home or at work, but especially in the car. “Multi-tasking” is not an effective way to get more done, rather, it increases the likelihood that you’ll be distracted and less effective at any one individual task.[18]

More importantly:

  • Each day in the U.S., approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).[19]
  • Several studies indicate that texting, checking email, or otherwise using our phones while driving render us just as impaired as having had a few drinks.[20]

Practice proper handwashing, especially in work and school environments. While most kids know (we hope) to wash their hands after visiting the bathroom, the germiest places in schools include the drinking fountains, cafeteria trays and other kids’ hands.[21]

You face similar issues in an office. Your cell phone and keyboard can be full of germs. Regular handwashing is key.[22]

Practice safe food handling when preparing meals, as cleanliness helps prevent common food-borne illnesses that result from Salmonella, E. coli and norovirus. According to the FDA, foodborne illnesses are largely preventable, yet there about 48 million cases every year as reported by the CDC.[23]

Make sure to clean your hands and surfaces often; don’t cross contaminate (e.g., using the same cutting board for raw meat as for vegetables); cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate promptly.[24]

Get more information about safe food handling practices.

Summary + Next Steps

There are a number of things you can do that may result in healthcare savings by helping you stay healthy and provide early detection:

  • See your doctor regularly
  • Know your body and perform self-exams
  • Save the emergency room for emergencies.
  • Adopt healthy habits
  • Practice safety and hygiene

What if you do need to seek medical care? Be prepared with health insurance coverage.

An ACA-qualifying major medical plan will provide the most benefits and broadest coverage for everything from annual wellness exams to emergency room treatment, even though deductibles and premiums can be quite high.

ACA plans are more affordable if you qualify for federal subsidies. But plans are only available during the annual open enrollment period or during a special enrollment period if you qualify.

ACA Subsidy Calculator

If you want temporary coverage to provide some level of benefits in the event of a critical illness or accident, you can consider short term health insurance. These are limited-benefit plans that aren’t required to comply with the ACA, and as such, don’t cover essential health benefits like preventive care or pre-existing conditions.

The trade-off is if you qualify, your monthly premium will likely be lower than an unsubsidized ACA plan, depending on the benefits you select.[25]

Get a Short Term Health Insurance Quote

Telemedicine is not insurance, and you don’t need an insurance policy to use the service. Telemed provides access to virtual doctor’s office visits with licensed physicians any day of the year. You can conduct the call anywhere you have phone or internet service.

Doctors can write prescriptions if needed, provide care plans and let you know if you should seek an in-person exam. Telemedicine can be helpful for routine and non-critical illnesses like cold, skin rash and ear infections.

Get Telemedicine

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