How To Save Money on Your Healthcare Costs, From Prescriptions to Annual Doctor's Visits

As the Senate puts off its vote on the Affordable Care Act's replacement until after the July 4th recess, it’s necessary to discuss options to keep healthcare prices low going forward. 

At She Spends, we’re fully in favor of a healthcare system that is single payer. We believe that this option is best for people who identify as women, as well as non-binary people. For both of these groups, healthcare costs can often be higher. We will support every candidate who advocates for this, and in the meantime, we advocate for donating to groups like Planned Parenthood. We also suggest you call your Senators about the bill. 

That’s what we can do on a macro level to drive healthcare costs down. But in the interim, there are smaller things we can do to keep the costs of healthcare down for ourselves.

To save on doctor’s office visits, consider planning ahead and scheduling at a sliding scale clinic in your area. Some clinics offer appointments on weekends from doctors who are offering services pro bono, which can keep costs down for you, especially if you’re uninsured. Dental clinics are also often offered this way, especially in underserved areas. 

If you do have insurance, make sure you see a physician who is in network. It’s totally normal (and recommended!) that you call your doctor to make sure they’re covered before you show up. Insurance websites are often clunky, but don’t let that get in the way of getting cheaper healthcare. Don’t forget to use ZocDoc to keep track of appointments and check out doctor reviews! 

You can also consider using a service like Maven Clinic. It’s a telemedicine clinic for people who identify as women. The clinic offers appointments with general practitioners, nutritionists, physical therapists, mental health counselors, prenatal, postnatal and pediatric caregivers. The best part? If you use code 5VYFT, you can get your first appointment for free. I have used Maven Clinic before to refill an ongoing prescription at the last minute, which was great. If you think you’ll need ongoing care, you can pay for a subscription, rather than a one-time appointment. 

If you have to go to the emergency room, the last thing you’ll be thinking about is cost. But there are a few things to consider. Ambulance rides are typically hefty in price. If you can, have someone drive you to the ER, especially if it’s a broken bone or something that doesn’t require in-transit medical assistance. You can also consider taking a Lyft to the hospital to cut back on costs. Neither of these methods is recommended, but do know that you will incur a charge if you take an ambulance.

Once you’re there, ask if your doctor or a procedure are covered by your insurer BEFORE you receive care. A recent phenomenon called surprise billing has cropped up in hospitals. You, as a patient, could be told that your insurer covers a procedure. Sometimes, though, an insurer doesn’t offer coverage of all types of doctors or services they perform. Months later, you may receive charges in the thousands of dollars for care that you didn’t agree to. 

If you’re receiving care at a hospital or doctor’s office, make sure you check how much the services will cost with your specific insurance, as well as through a self-pay option. Sometimes, when you have insurance, the cost of the service is way higher, because insurance companies agree to the costs and will actually pay them. The problem is that the burden of payment can fall on you if you have a high deductible plan. You could actually pay less in these situations if you go with a self-pay option rather than insurance. 

Once you have a procedure and receive a bill, you can negotiate with the hospital to get costs down. Some offer payment plans, but it’s important to first push for discounts, then a payment plan, so the cost is at its lowest. This is not something out of the ordinary for hospital companies - they negotiate all the time. So when you get your bill, view it as a starting point, rather than a number set in stone. 

When it comes to prescriptions, you can save money a few ways. You may want to opt into the mail order pharmacy plan offered by your insurer. However, be warned that these come in the mail in marked packages. If your postal carrier leaves packages outside or in your building’s lobby, it could be an easy target for people to steal. 

Be sure to research whatever drug you’ve been prescribed online. Often you’ll find two things. The first is potential information on a generic offering of the drug. These are often lower priced than branded drugs. In some states, pharmacies can swap these drugs out, no biggie. But in others, they need doctor permission, so you’ll have to give your doctor a call to let them know you want the generic version of a drug. You’ll also likely find discount coupons from the drug manufacturer. USE. THESE. For me, they drove down the price of a $350 drug to $4 for a 30-day supply. 

Do you have other tips? Tweet us! We're @she_spends.

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #9