Healthcare costs on the rise, but there are a number of ways to lower your medical expenses.

An ounce of prevention.

One of the most effective ways to lower medical expenses, especially over the long haul, is to maintain a healthy lifestyle by:

* Taking advantage of wellness programs

* Maintaining a healthy weight

* Exercising regularly

* Kicking unhealthy habits (e.g., smoking)

* Getting regular checkups.

If your health insurance provides little to no coverage in certain areas, or if you lack health insurance coverage, look into free health screenings. Local clinics and hospitals often offer a variety of screenings, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and mammograms. If it’s free, don’t hesitate to take advantage of it!

Prescriptions on the cheap.

If you take prescription drugs regularly, they can cost you plenty. But it’s not hard to find ways to save money. For example, order your prescriptions through the mail, through a traditional or online pharmacy. If you belong to a prescription drug plan through your health insurance, you can probably get a three-month supply through the mail for the same price as a one-month supply at the local pharmacy. And if possible, ask your pharmacist or doctor to prescribe a less-expensive generic drug.

Keep an eye on your bills.

Medical bills can be confusing, but taking some time to review the charges may save you money. Make sure your bill accurately reflects the procedures you underwent and applies the proper insurance coverage you may have. It’s not too uncommon to have wrong computer codes where you’re billed for healthcare you never received. Contact the company’s billing office immediately if you find a mistake.

Togetherness can save money.

A number of married couples keep separate health insurance coverage even though it may cost them more to do so. Take a look at both your and your spouse’s coverage and see if it makes sense for either of you to join the other’s plan. Be aware that most plans allow the addition of a spouse within a certain time period after getting married – for example, 30 days. If that’s the case, you may have to wait for the plan’s annual open enrollment period.

Keep track of it.

With tax time right around the corner, you may be able to deduct certain medical expenses if you itemize. In order to itemize, your total medical expenses need to exceed (more)

7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. The allowable medical expenses include everything from health-care services to medical aids, which include eyeglasses, hearing aids, etc. Keep records of these expenses if you think you’ll be able to deduct them for the tax year.

It doesn’t hurt to haggle.

Many people don’t realize that they can sometimes negotiate to lower their medical bills. It may not always work, but it doesn’t hurt to ask your doctor, hospital, or pharmacy if they’re willing bargain with you. Before you start negotiations, do some research on what other health-care providers in your area are charging. In addition, your health-care provider may lower their price if you pay in cash up front.

Save a little for a rainy day.

If your employer offers a flexible spending plan that allows you to put pretax dollars in an account, jump on it. With a flexible spending plan, you’ll be reimbursed for out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as prescription drugs, dental care, and co-payments. And because flexible spending contributions are taken out of your pay before taxes are calculated, you use pretax dollars to pay your medical bills.

Know who’s covering you.

These days, insurance companies often provide benefits designed to help you stay safe and healthy. One example – you may be able to receive discounts on vitamins, alternative medicines, health club memberships, or bike helmets. Also examine the range of coverage your health plan offers. It may cover dental care for young children, chiropractic care, and acupuncture. Read all materials provided by your insurer thoroughly to find out what products and services are available before you pay them out of pocket.

It’s your money, shop around.

If your employer doesn’t provide health insurance, you may have to obtain your own coverage. In order to get good coverage at an affordable price, you’ll need to shop around. Premiums vary widely, so you can save some cash if you get quotes from several companies. Examine each plan’s coverage and features, and take into account all exclusions, limitations, and the freedom to choose health-care providers. It’s also important to find out how much your out-of-pocket expenses will be as far as co-payments, coinsurance, and deductibles are considered. Be careful. With some plans, small amounts of money can add up quickly with frequent visits to your doctor.

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