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7 Ways to Save on Health Care

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$3,157. That's how much the average American paid out of pocket for health care in one recent year. (We can think of better uses for your green: say, new running sneakers or that awesome Garmin GPS watch.) Alarmingly, a Harvard Medical School study found that 62 percent of all bankruptcies are caused by medical bills or loss of income due to illness. Here are seven simple steps to cut your health care costs -- no messy calculations necessary.

7 Ways to Save $$$

Your Savings, Decoded

Use this key to see how much moola these strategies could net you. Ca-ching!

$ You save < $100

$$ You save $100 to $1,000

$$$ You save > $1,000

Double-check your insurance.

Never assume that your doctor is still in your insurance network. Physicians typically reevaluate their list of accepted plans at least annually, so ask each time you book an appointment. If your MD now works with your plan on an out-of-network basis, her services will often be covered at a much lower rate or not at all. Seeing another doc in the same practice? Even if the facility accepts your insurance, he might not. The same goes for referrals.

SAVINGS: $$$

Know how to haggle.

Don't worry -- you don't have to go all swap meet at your next appointment. It's about negotiating. A 2005 survey found that 70 percent of those who attempted to lower their hospital bills were successful. Sherri Dumford, the director of operations for the Healthcare Billing and Management Association, says that the uninsured and those with a recent financial hardship probably have the most luck. Use healthcarebluebook.com to find the fair price, or check hospitalcompare.hhs.gov to see what Medicare will cover, then call the billing manager and offer that amount. If you can pay cash up front, many providers will slash prices by as much as half, according to the Consumers Union. Also, if you're undergoing several procedures at once -- say, having your tonsils and adenoids removed -- ask for a discount. Insurance companies pay a reduced amount for each procedure after the first one, and you should too.

SAVINGS: $ to $$$

Catch errors.

About 80 percent of medical bills contain mistakes -- to the tune of $10 billion annually, according to Medical Billing Advocates of America. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a personal assistant to eyeball each bill and check for goofs? Now you do. Simplee.com is a free online tool that tracks what you spend on health care. It links your insurance plans (health, vision, dental) and health-spending accounts so they are displayed on one dashboard. A user-friendly breakdown of each bill shows what insurance covers and what you owe, and the site examines each claim to identify errors, such as duplicate charges, billing for a service that should be free, or being billed for an out-of-network provider when you shouldn't be.

SAVINGS: $$

Get an agent.

Employer plans usually provide the best value, but it's possible to do better on the individual market if you don't have a preexisting condition. "In some cases, you can save if you're willing to disclose your medical history," says Bruce D. Benton, the president of the National Association of Health Underwriters. Find a health insurance agent at nahu.org; because their fees are paid by insurance companies, it won't cost you anything out of pocket. You also have access to more plans, so you can tailor your coverage. Skip benefits you don't need, such as eyeglasses and maternity, and consider an inexpensive, high-deductible plan if you're rarely sick.

SAVINGS: $$

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abednadier20 wrote:

These are really great tips. I'm saving up to get married and so I'm pinching pennies wherever I can. I think it's really important to have Health Care so I'm glad that there are options to save money. I will definitely be following these tips and trying this. Abed Nadier | http://www.galleriadentalcentre.ca/en/about_us.html

2/5/2014 11:20:06 AM Report Abuse
lawl7980 wrote:

In Canada, 1% of bankruptcies happen as a result of medical bills. I feel fortunate, reading about this.

6/11/2013 03:36:01 PM Report Abuse
mequasney wrote:

That is unbelievable about the high error rate of medical bills. I have experienced this multiple times, being double billed and billed for services I did not receive. Makes you wonder if doctors are there to make a mint or be service orientated professionals.

4/21/2013 11:39:26 AM Report Abuse
nnebuogo.nwauko.171390 wrote:

this is nice and educative.http://www.unn.edu.ng/

4/15/2013 05:50:04 AM Report Abuse
quincyshumpert wrote:

I am retired and do not have health insurance at present, but I got online and found a local clinic that would perform a free mammogram. And no, I am not at the poverty level, just middleclass. This will save me about $400 this year

4/3/2013 03:44:58 PM Report Abuse

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