Save on prescription drugs
The cost of prescription drugs can account for a big chunk of out-of-pocket expenses, especially if you're managing a chronic illness such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure or arthritis. Americans spent about $325 billion on prescription drugs in 2012.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to slash the costs for prescription drugs. Speak with your doctor about using a generic drug rather than the brand-name version. The cost of a generic drug is 80 percent to 85 percent lower, on average, than brand-name products, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can also ask your doctor for medication samples.
Compare prices at pharmacies in retail stores (such as Target, CVS and Walmart), wholesalers (such as Costco), online and via mail order. Discounts often apply when ordering a 30- or 90-day supply of medications. Prescription coupons are available at OptimizeRx.com and InternetDrugCoupons.com.
You may qualify to take part in patient assistance programs that offer prescription discounts to people with limited income. Visit the pharmaceutical company's website or check out RXAssist.org and NeedyMeds.org for information about assistance programs. AARP has a program that offers savings of up to 30 percent off prescription drugs.
Compare health care costs among providers
To the extent possible, compare actual prices for health care services and procedures to keep your out-of-pocket expenses to a minimum. The cost for the same medical service can vary by tens of thousands of dollars from one provider to another, according to a U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report detailing what hospitals charge Medicare.
"The cost of every health care service matters because it's coming out of consumer's pockets," says Francois de Brantes, executive director of the Health Care Incentive Improvement Institute, which partnered with Catalyst for Payment Reform to publish the "Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws." Some states, such as Massachusetts and New Hampshire, have All-Payer Claims Databases that collect and aggregate claims from commercial and public insurers to offer consumers true pricing information. Other states aren't as forthcoming.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Experts advise consumers to take advantage of the wellness and preventive services – from annual checkups and childhood vaccinations to cancer screenings and more – that are now available at no extra cost since passage of the Affordable Care Act.
"Staying healthy is one of the really good ways to save your health care dollars. It's better to get an immunization than to be hospitalized with the flu," says Pisano. "That's both smart from the perspective of dollars and cents and smart from the perspective of your health."
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