Money

4 Ways You Can Cut Health Care Expenses Today

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The average family spends about $6,000 on out-of-pocket health-care expenses each year. The good news? You can lower your costs and protect your health at the same time. Here, four genius strategies to try today!

Shop Around

Prices for medical procedures vary widely, says Jeanne Pinder, founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts.com. A blood test can be $7 at one spot and $522 at another! Her advice? “Always ask the provider, ‘How much will this cost me with my insurance?’” Then ask about extra charges or discounts, and get it in writing. Also, check prices with two or three providers, Pinder advises. You can also use the price-comparison tool at ClearHealthCosts.com to find out if another provider offers the same service for less. Pinder recalls a woman in New Orleans who saved nearly $4,000 on an MRI using the site’s data.

‘Flex’ Your Medical Dollars

You can save a bundle on health care without doing anything at all. If your employer offers a flexible spending account for medical expenses, you can put away up to $2,650 each year—tax free—for those costs. It may seem daunting to give up part of your paycheck, but if your tax rate is 22%, you would have saved $583 in taxes for 2019! And you can use an FSA to pay for things like Band-aids and contact lens solution, as well as to make medically necessary improvements to your home (think bath rails or a wheelchair ramp) or even to pay for a guide dog! (Visit www.IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf for more information.)

Book a Virtual Visit

Telemedicine is growing in popularity, with about 10% of Americans having used virtual health services, in which patients consult with a doctor remotely, instead of going to the doctor’s office. And studies show that many patient visits could be handled virtually, saving the average consumer $100 per visit. That’s why many hospitals and insurance plans now offer televisit options. With LiveHealthOnline.com, for example, you’ll pay just $49 for a visit if you don’t have insurance—though the site does accept it. You’ll get a diagnosis, a care plan and a prescription if it’s needed—all without leaving home!

Go Warehouse for Meds

Prescription drug costs can vary from location to location. But in a Consumer Reports study, Costco proved to be the least expensive brick-and-mortar pharmacy—and in many states, you don’t even need to be a member. But if you are a member, you’ll save even more with the Costco Member Prescription Program, which offers an additional discount. Not near a Costco? Hop online to GoodRx.com and type in the medication you need to find the lowest price nearby. For example, the generic form of Lipitor was recently listed on the site for $14.37 at the Price Chopper pharmacy, but $127.10 at Walgreens!

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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