How To Avoid Paying A Lot (Unless You Absolutely Have To)

Medical_report Two months ago, I went to the doctor. I was having some health issues, the doctor ordered the bloodwork to rule things out. How much will it cost? I asked. He said a few hundred dollars. I asked him further about the tests he was prescribing. Was this one necessary? What did that one rule out? (Hey, if I have to pay $30 just to talk to him, I’m not going to be shy!) I decided it was probably worth my health to get the bloodwork done.

Two months later, there is nothing apparently wrong with me… and I have a $450 bill to prove it.

I guess the bill doesn’t bother me. I do realize these things cost money: the doctor’s time, the technician’s time, the tests, the equipment. What bothers me though is that over two months later, I still have no name for a condition that feels very real to me. A day or two after, the New York Times comes out with this essay: Many Doctors, Many Tests, No Rhyme or Reason, making me even more paranoid about paying too much for medical tests I don’t need.

A friend offered to consult her doctor boyfriend (who happens to live across the country) about my symptoms and what he would have a patient do. His list paralleled my doctor’s, which helped me feel like I hadn’t been duped. Of course, I don’t want to consult him about everything. How am I supposed to keep medical costs low in the future?

CNN Money had a good article about the “new medical rules”. Here are a few that could apply to everyone:

         Keep costs low, even if you do have insurance. When your doctor suggests a procedure, don’t be afraid to ask about how much it costs and why he/she is asking you to do it. You have the right to be satisfied with the answer; you are the one who is going to pay for things one way or the other.

         Ask your company about health-related cost reductions, like keeping a low BMI or not smoking. Your healthy habits are saving them money and there may be incentives for that, even if it is $40 a year.

         Ask your company who oversees your health plan. While employers aren’t allowed to fire you if you are going to cost the company big money in health care, it’s pretty hard to prove they have done this. It’s better if your company hires another company to handle this.

         Know your insurance’s prescription policy. That’s 10% of the average person’s medical costs.

In the end, many of us stay with our jobs in part because of the health insurance. And sometimes you do have to pay to find out you’re ok. But the good thing about hospitals is they don’t usually charge interest and you can pay off your bill slowly. I’ll be paying off mine at $30 a month, which is much less painful then it could be.

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