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More and more Americans are turning to high deductible health plans to lower their monthly premiums. That’s a smart move if you’re healthy and have an emergency fund in place to cover your deductible.
According to Kaiser Family Foundation, high deductible plan participation has increased from 13% of covered workers to 24% in the past five years. Alternatives like health sharing ministries are also on the rise. Membership in these plans has increased from 200,000 to 530,000 in recent years.
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The downside of these plans is that they don’t always cover everything you need. Things like dental, vision and prescription drugs may not be included—or at least not fully. And when you multiply these out-of-pocket expenses by four family members (or more), you could be looking at four-digit figures over the course of a year.
In the name of saving you money, we came up with some practical ways to keep your family healthy for less. Try one, try all, and see how much more you can save this year:
- Ask for samples. Your doctor may not know how much the drug they’re prescribing costs. If you don’t have good prescription drug insurance, tell your M.D. They may be able to hook you up with free samples until you’re better.
- Request the generic. Never assume your doctor will prescribe the generic version of your medicine. Double check, or you might double pay!
- Be choosey about your pharmacy. Consumer Reports found that drug prices can cost up to 10 times more depending on the pharmacy. In one of the examples, a certain drug cost $250 at Walgreens, but $43 at Costco—for the same exact prescription! The report also found that the mail-order pharmacy HealthWarehouse.com had dramatically lower prices on almost every generic they compared. Also, check with your local pharmacy for things like antibiotics—grocery chain Publix offers them for free.
- Use your Health Savings Account. If your deductible is a minimum of $1,300 per person or $2,600 for a family, you may qualify for a Health Savings Account (HSA). Save extra money in this pretax account throughout the year, and you’ll have the cash you need to cover prescriptions and co-pays.
- Find a discount. Ask your family practitioner or pharmacist about cash discounts, discount cards, or loyalty programs you can join. Every little bit counts!
- Contact the drug company directly. If you still can’t afford a specific medication, contact the drug’s manufacturer directly. Many companies have patient assistance programs to provide their drugs either free or at a significantly reduced price.
- Search for a deal. Scan the internet for new client specials from individual dentist offices, or check out sites like Groupon and Living Social. You can usually score a cleaning for around $50-60.
- Get a second opinion. If your diagnosis requires a lot of money, like a root canal or braces, get a second opinion. And shop around for prices at other dentist offices. You don’t have to buy your kids’ braces from your pediatric dentist’s preferred orthodontist, for example.
- Use your HSA. Don’t forget, you can use your health savings account for everything from fillings to cleanings to crowns to dentures.
- Ask for a discount/payment plan. Need some serious work done pronto? Ask for cash discounts and a payment plan. This way, you aren’t hit with a huge bill all at once.
- Buy online or at a warehouse. With low-cost online shops like ZenniOptical and Warby Parker, you can get a complete pair of glasses for under $100. As for contacts, check out Costco Optical or an online retailer. Just make sure you’re getting free shipping, or it might not be such a deal after all.
- Use Your HSA. Your health savings account covers contacts, glasses, eye drops, eye exams, and even contact solution. Use it!
- If you’re considering Lasik, save first. Spending $1,000-2,000 per eye may not sound like a cost-saving measure, but if you add up all the years you’re paying for exam fittings, new contact lenses, cleaners and new glasses year over year, it could make sense. Just don’t go into debt in the name of "saving future money." If you can’t pay cash, wait until you can.
- Ask for self-pay/cash discounts. This point can’t be stressed enough—always ask for a discount! Always.
Related: Dave’s Most Popular Money-Saving Tip
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