Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Try cutting your health care bills

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Health care is expensive, even for those with insurance. My treatment with the breast cancer drug Herceptin cost $5,000 every three weeks for 52 weeks. Insurance paid 80 percent; I was responsible for 20. That's $1,000 every three weeks. Not exactly affordable.

What many of us don't know is that we can play an active role in cutting our health care bills. We can shop around for everything, for example. Before filling a prescription, consider comparing prices offered at mail-order and online pharmacies with those of larger retailers. You may even find that mom and pop shops offer competitive rates since they can set their own pricing. Don't forget about generic drugs too. Ask your doctor if a generic version of your medication is just as good as a brand name drug. If so, go for the price break.

Did you know that lab work is more expensive if you get it at a hospital? Ask your doctor for other trustworthy locations and save a few bucks.

Always ask for itemized medical bills. Read them carefully. Eight out of 10 hospital bills contain errors, so you're likely to find some. If you find something isn't right, be aggressive in your pursuit of the mistake. Go to the billing department -- in person if you can -- and keep at your complaint until it's appropriately addressed. Keep talking to supervisors until you are satisfied. Document everything.

It pays to ask for discounts. Next time you see your doctor, ask if he or she can charge you a less expensive rate or at least help you negotiate one. You might be surprised when your doctor agrees. You might also ask to receive a discount in exchange for paying cash up front.

In a world of skyrocketing medical costs, try these tips for taking matters into your own hands.

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