9 Financial Mistakes You're Making at the Doctor's Office

By Kat Tretina on 4 June 2018 0 comments

If you have an ongoing medical condition, you know how expensive health care can be. Medical costs have skyrocketed the past several years, leaving people facing the very real possibility that doctor's visits, prescriptions, and procedures could deplete their bank account or even land them in debt.

There are ways to make medical care more affordable. However, a lot of people miss out on some important discounts. Below, find out what costly mistakes you might be making at the doctor's office.

1. You don't comparison shop for prescriptions

When it comes to medication, the price you pay can vary from location to location. If you go to the same pharmacy every time and never shop around, you could be overpaying for your prescriptions.

GoodRX is a site that allows you to compare prices at several different local pharmacies at once, ensuring you get the best price. According to the site, if you had a prescription for the antidepressant Lexapro and filled it at Walmart, you'd pay $46.29. But, if you filled it at Costco, you'd pay just $10.50.

2. You don't ask for generic medication

If your doctor prescribes you a new medication, going with a name brand can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. For example, if you were to fill a prescription for Crestor, a medication for high cholesterol, it would cost you about $825 for a 90-day supply, according to Drugs.com. By contrast, if you got the generic version — rosuvastatin — you'd pay just $96 for the same supply.

When you're at the doctor's office, be sure to ask your doctor if there is a cheaper generic version available.

3. You don't use a discount prescription card

If you don't have insurance and need to fill a prescription, you can expect a hefty bill. However, you might not have to pay the sticker price on your own.

There are free discount programs you can sign up for to get your prescriptions at a much cheaper price. For example, if you sign up for a program like FamilyWize, you can get up to 90 percent off your prescriptions' prices. (See also: 7 Ways You Can Save Money On Prescription Medications)

4. You don't show up to appointments

Many doctor's offices are cracking down on people who miss appointments by charging them no-show fees. These fees can run anywhere from $20 to the price of a full visit, which can easily cost you hundreds.

If you can't make an appointment, contact the office as soon as possible to cancel or reschedule. If you do so early enough, you can prevent no-show fees from being added to your account.

5. You don't always pay your bills on time

If you owe your doctor money but don't pay your bill on time, you can quickly rack up late fees and interest charges. Over time, your bill can balloon thanks to those penalties. What's worse, if your doctor decides to send your delinquent account to a collections agency, your credit will also take a hit.

It's important that you make all of your payments on time. If you're in danger of falling behind, contact your doctor's office right away to see if you can get on a more affordable payment plan. It's better to be upfront about your situation than to ignore it.

6. You use the emergency room for illnesses and minor injuries

If you go to the emergency room for minor injuries or illnesses like strep throat or the flu, you could end up spending thousands. According to a 2016 report by the Health Care Cost Institute, an emergency room visit cost an average $1,917. That's an awful lot to pay for the flu.

In many cases, going to an urgent care facility rather than the emergency room can be a more cost-effective option. An urgent care visit typically costs between $100 and $200 out of pocket. These facilities can handle most minor illnesses or injuries, including broken bones. (See also: Urgent Care or ER? How to Decide Where to Go)

7. You don't negotiate costs

Although you can't negotiate costs like copays or coinsurance — your insurance provider determines those — you can negotiate services and treatments that aren't covered by insurance.

If your insurance provider refuses to cover a necessary service, explain to the office administrator that you'll be paying out of pocket and ask if they offer any discounts for cash-paying patients. In some cases, you may pay significantly less than if you used insurance. (See also: 7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills)

8. You see out-of-network providers

If you've always gone to the same doctor, finding a new one might be a real pain, and you might put off finding someone else. However, if your current doctor is out of your insurance provider's network, this can be a costly mistake.

Depending on the type of insurance plan you have, your insurance company might only cover a portion of a visit with an out-of-network doctor. If you have an HMO, they might not cover any of it, and you'll be solely responsible for the charges. Taking the time to find a doctor within your network can save you money (and headaches) over time. (See also: How to Choose the Best Primary Care Physician)

9. You don't keep copies of your test results

If you need to have an MRI, CT scan, or blood work done, ask the doctor or lab technician for a copy of your results. Keeping a copy for yourself can help you in the future if another doctor wants to run the same tests. If you have a recent version, you can skip getting another round of expensive tests, saving you a lot of money.

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