Visits to the doctor usually mean one thing: pain. Sometimes the thing that ends up hurting most is your wallet. While you really can’t do much to offset the costs of health care, there are ways to be prepared.
1. Shop Around
It’s strange to think of getting a medical procedure in terms of buying a car, but much like buying an expensive item, doctors charge different prices to perform procedures. Depending on what you need to be done, checking expenses at different offices can save you money. Procedures such as MRIs and X-rays vary in cost and produce the same outcome. Calling different offices to compare prices won’t cost anything but minutes on your wireless plan. Make sure to do your research before you choose a doctor to make sure the practice is a reputable one.
2. Emergency Budget
Don’t wait for a medical emergency to start saving money. Everyone should have an emergency budget of approximately three to six months of paychecks on hand. The savings you build up could help with any unplanned expenses, such as a medical emergency. If you do not have a budget set up, put one together as soon as possible. It could save you from debt while providing some peace of mind.
3. Before You Go In
When you have settled on a doctor make sure you check first to see if the practice accepts your insurance. Even if an office accepts your insurance, your procedure may not be covered. It’s important to prepare yourself for the expense of what you are getting done. When you are in the office it may be more difficult to think logically because of nerves and other factors. It’s always good to double check with your insurance company to see if it will cover the procedure.
Surprisingly, health care costs can be negotiated. Many offices will waive certain fees for the uninsured. Even if you are insured you may be surprised to find providers that will reduce prices if you negotiate. If you are able to pay up front, health care providers will be more likely to lower the cost even more. Honesty often helps in these situations: Explain to the office your financial situation and see if they can help you figure out the best payment plan for your budget.
5. Set up a Payment Plan
Whether you need emergency health care or are just preparing to pay a big bill, check to see which payment plans are available. If you are able to afford payment up front and your provider is offering a reduced rate, then pay the reduced rate. If not, you should look into no-interest payment plans where you can pay a low monthly balance for up to six months or one year without incurring interest. Some offices offer health care finance through banks such as Bank of America or Chase. There are also programs like CareCredit that have no up-front costs or pre-payment penalties.
We’ve all been there: Surrounded by white walls, floors, ceilings and uniforms. A receptionist adds up the total and your stomach drops as your heart begins to race. Don’t panic. Having medical expenses stinks, for lack of a better word. But paying for doctor’s visits is just one of those adult things that we have to deal with. Hopefully this article provided some insight and will save you some unneeded financial strain.
To learn how to keep your medical records safe, check out the following article: Protect Yourself Against Medical Identity Theft.
Simon Zhen is a research analyst for MyBankTracker. He is an expert on consumer banking products, bank innovations, and financial technology.
Simon has contributed and/or been quoted in major publications and outlets including Consumer Reports, American Banker, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News – World Report, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Lifehacker, and AOL.com.