With Americans spending more each year on medical expenses than residents of any other industrialized nation – an annual average of more than $7,000 per person – it’s no wonder everyone’s looking for ways to save. And although much of this cost is covered by employer-provided health insurance, government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid or through tax-funded state healthcare programs, many Americans are seeing their out-of-pocket medical expenses increase year-on-year. With a little foresight and organization, there are many ways you can save on these expenses.
Keep Your Receipts
Many medical costs and healthcare-related expenses are tax deductible at the end of the year. Keep evidence of any medical bills you’ve paid, and include these deductions on your tax return. There’s usually a minimum amount that must be spent in a year before medical expenses can be deducted. However, if you have any single significant bill – for example, an E.R. visit or an expensive recurring prescription medication – you are likely to meet this minimum easily. Find a financial advisor for more specific tips on the types of expenses you can deduct.
Many common prescription medications are available in both brand name and generic forms. The generics are almost always significantly cheaper, and just as effective and safe as the brand-name pharmaceuticals. Ask your doctor if there are generic versions of any prescriptions you currently take. Over the course of just a few years you could save thousands.
Make a Deal
If you have significant outstanding hospital or provider bills, it’s worth calling the facility that issued the bill to ask whether they would accept a lower amount, or a deferred payment plan. Hospitals, for example, commonly give quite deep discounts to insurance companies on the billed cost of medical services. Uninsured or under-insured individuals may be eligible to receive a similar discount on outstanding bills.
Good Health Costs Less
You can reduce the likelihood of costly future medical bills and expenses by taking control of your own health today. Walk or bike to work – you’ll save gas money now and improve your overall fitness and health. The healthier you are, the less likely you are to need expensive medical care. Choose cheap, healthy plant-based foods over unhealthy processed or fast food. If you smoke, quit. The cost of medications that can help you quit will likely be less in the long run than a lifelong habit and its resulting medical issues. Take a look at the cost of any drinking and illicit drug use, both in terms of cash and in terms of their negative impact on your health. Your healthcare provider can advise you about available help and support for a healthier lifestyle.
Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site dedicated to helping readers make informed personal finance decisions by saving on healthcare essentials and planning for end of life healthcare costs.