Healthcare costs are high in the United States thanks to our emphasis on privatization. In some other countries, like Singapore and Switzerland, there is more access to health care and fewer regulations on providers, which means that more people are getting routine health care instead of ending up at the emergency room and costing more. Providers in those countries also don't have to charge as much to deal with the cost of doing business.
While politicians in the U.S. continue to battle it out over what should happen to health care — should we have universal coverage? or should we take away the recent protections that were extended to low-income payers? — regular citizens continue to have to find ways to pay for the astronomical cost of care, ranging from prescription medications to routine doctor's visits to sick care. Both people who have insurance and those who don't are still struggling to keep up with health care costs. If you are one of them, here are a few things you can do to make sure you are getting the best prices for your health care services:
Use a Prescription Discount Card
Finding the best prescription discount card can help you locate the best prices on prescriptions in your area and then give you access to any coupons or discounts that may be available.
Prices can fluctuate wildly even in a 20-mile radius, so it's worth shopping around to get the best prices on your prescriptions. Pharmacists are also not likely to let you know about discounts that may be available, which is why using a discount card is so helpful.
Be careful not to resort to dangerous measures in your pursuit to find the best prices on prescription drugs. You should never buy prescription drugs without a prescription, and you should never buy them from an individual. You also should not shop with retailers overseas as these transactions are not regulated. You could be getting something that would actively hurt you, or you could be getting something that is ineffective and thereby hurting you by not regulating your condition appropriately.
Join a Health Share Program
Health share programs operate similarly to insurance, but they cost much less. You pay a certain monthly amount, and you are covered up to a certain amount, often about $1 million “per incident.” These plans work on a membership basis, and the idea is that all the people in the membership are sharing their medical expenses. You have to apply for membership, and you can be declined for things like smoking or having a different religious faith (many of them are sponsored by a specific religious denomination).
Health share programs don't operate just like insurance, but they are similar enough that you can use them in place of insurance and get your health care needs met. You can also join one in addition to having health insurance to cover catastrophic needs, such as if you are diagnosed with cancer.
Insurance usually pays a discounted rate for medical services because it negotiates those rates on behalf of a large pool of customers. You may not have that same bargaining power, but many providers will still negotiate with you directly. Doctors know that if you can't pay the full cost of services, they risk recovering nothing, so they may be willing to lower your bill so that they get something. After all, if you had insurance, they wouldn't be getting paid the full amount for services either.
Private doctors are less likely to negotiate since they can be more choosy with clients. However, you may have more success negotiating in advance for a package of services, such as prenatal care for a pregnancy. Know that if you are going to pay in cash, some will give you a significant discount — as much as half in many cases.
Don't let the rising cost of health care keep you from getting the services you need. Use these tips to ensure that you are getting the best prices for your medical care so that you can stay healthy and keep your bank account healthy, too. Then maybe one day we'll have universal health care coverage and you won't have to worry about it again!
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