From the Magazine

4 Ways to Save Cash on Healthcare

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Getting and staying healthy doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg thanks to these savvy new tricks for snagging the care you need for a lot less  

Cut bills with telemedicine

Forget the cost and time required to visit a doctor in person about non-urgent health issues like a rash or allergies — with telemedicine, you can use the phone, internet, or app to get 24-hour access to a doctor who can diagnose symptoms and write a prescription. 

To use it, you pay one flat fee per consultation (at HealthTap, that starts at just $9). But you may not even have to pay that: Virtual visits are partially and sometimes completely covered by nearly 60 percent of large business insurance policies in 37 state —even Medicare. Ask your employer or insurer about their coverage.

Sidestep the “FSED” trap

Freestanding emergency departments (FSEDs) — ones not attached to a hospital — are popping up around the country. But visit one for a nonemergency like a fever, and you could pay up to 19 times more than if you’d visited an urgent care clinic, per a new UnitedHealth Group study. 

This translates into shelling out $3,200 for a visit that could have cost just $167! While both facilities offer doctor exams, diagnostic tests, X-rays, and prescriptions, FSEDs charge emergency room rates — even for non-emergencies. 

The smart move: Call ahead and ask, “Is this an emergency center or urgent care clinic?” and request costs up front.

Get care with free apps

Feeling anxious or blue? Turn to new free apps like Woebot and MoodTools that offer mental health support. Studies at Stanford and Brigham Young University prove these apps can boost mood, usher in calm and ease worry. That’s because they provide a place to share your thoughts and cognitive behavioral tools that help you manage your emotions — and research shows such therapy is as effective as Prozac in treating depression.

Skip this hospital gotcha

There’s an expensive problem in the U.S. called balance billing. “This is when a hospital uses an out-of-network doctor or other provider during your treatment. Then you get a surprise bill for the balance that your insurance didn’t cover to pay their fee”, explains Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., a physician turned financial planner and founder of Life Planning Partners

There’s currently federal legislation aimed to protect patients from it. Until that’s passed, Dr. McClanahan has advice: “Next time you’re admitted to a hospital, add the line ‘no out-of-network providers’ to your admission forms, ask all providers you meet if they’re in your insurer’s network and hang a sign on your hospital bed that says ‘Use in-network providers only.’”

This story originally appeared in our print magazine

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