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Tips on how to save on health care


Given results of recent surveys showing that many Americans are struggling to pay their medical bills and buy prescription drugs, a Kiplinger's Personal Finance article on ways consumers can cut health-care costs is particularly timely. Some of the tips (e.g. switch to generic drugs, contribute to a flexible spending account) you've likely heard before, but several jumped out at me:

  • Find therapeutic alternatives. Some brand-name drugs don't have a generic equivalent yet, but they may have a therapeutic equivalent, which is in the same class of drugs but is chemically a little different, says [Jeffrey Kang, chief medical officer for Cigna]. For example, Mavik, an ACE inhibitor used to lower blood pressure, has a retail price of price of about $33 for a 30-day supply, but lisinopril, also an ACE inhibitor, is just $7, says [Ross Blair, president of]. If your doctor lets you switch to the therapeutic equivalent, you could save more than $312 per year...
  • Get triple tax breaks from a health savings account. If your health insurance has a deductible of at least $1,200 for self-only coverage (or $2,400 for family coverage), then you can contribute up to $3,050 to an HSA for the year (or $6,150 if you have family coverage), plus an extra $1,000 if you're age 55 or older. Contributions lower your taxable income and grow tax-deferred -and they can be used tax-free for medical expenses in any year...
  • Ask for a cash discount. If you're in your deductible period and paying for a test or procedure yourself, get some leverage by paying cash. Some providers will cut your bill by 20% if you give them cash, says Christopher Parks, CEO of Change Healthcare, which provides health care tools for employers. Make sure you're getting the insurer's negotiated rate, and submit the claim yourself so that it counts against your deductible.

Via CommonHealth
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