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Six ways to save money on health costs

Posted by Jamie Downey  July 22, 2010 07:36 AM

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Healthcare costs here in Massachusetts are the highest in the country. Everyone, except state and municipal employees, is paying a lot more for healthcare these days. If you are not in this blessed class and are looking to save a few dollars on your healthcare, here are a few thoughts:

Become proactive with your health – It seems to me that many people have the false notion that their health is a passive activity. The belief that what one does today will have no bearing on your future health is completely false. Sedentary lifestyles, poor eating decisions, lack of sleep, etc. will eventually catch up with us. A little more exercise, a little better eating, a little less smoking, a little more sleep will all make tomorrow a better day. Most ailments are self-inflicted and can be prevented with an improved lifestyle. Make the choice to live a little healthier and act on it.

High deductible insurance plans – If you take reasonably good care of yourself and are on the younger side of the age spectrum, consider enrolling in a high deductible health insurance plan. Young healthy individuals subsidize health costs of older and sicker individuals. By enrolling in a high deductible plan, you can cut the cost of your insurance dramatically and your healthy lifestyle and youth should keep you away from the hospital. High deductible plans are becoming more popular. This trend will continue in coming years as insurance costs continue to rise and people.

Health savings accounts (HSA) and Flexible spending accounts (FSA) – Many employers offer these tax preferred arrangements. Both HSA’s and FSA’s allow you to set money aside on a pre-tax basis. This money can then be used to pay any out of pocket health-related expenses that are not covered by your insurance. By using money on a pre-tax basis, the average wage earner is effectively purchasing services at a 30 percent discount. If your employer offers either of these plans, you should take full advantage of them.

Use generic medications – The cost of many generic drugs has declined in recent years. I give full credit to Wal-Mart for this wonderful price reduction. When they introduced prescription drugs for $4 / month, everyone thought they were crazy. Now every major drug retailer has followed there lead and has a similar program in place. No federal government program was needed to bring down the costs, just a great retailer like Wal-Mart. If you are struggling to pay for your patent protected medication, ask your doctor if any generic medications can get you high levels of efficacy for $4 / month.

Split your prescription medication – If you need a 5 milligram dosage of an expensive medication, ask your doctor for a prescription for a 10 milligram dosage. Then merely cut the pill in half. Since most drugs cost the same price regardless of the dosage, you will receive twice the number of pills for the same price. Obviously, you need to confirm with your doctor or pharmacist that this is an option and will not reduce the efficacy of the drug. For certain drugs, i.e. those in capsule form, extended release, etc. it is not an effective option. However if the doctor agrees that the drug can be split without reducing efficacy, it may be worth a try.

Get preventive care – Preventive care is usually covered under health plans for little or no cost. Take full advantage of these and get your annual physical, screenings and immunizations. One of my favorite adages is “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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ABOUT MANAGING YOUR MONEY
Local finance professionals share insights and advice on issues such as budgeting, managing debt, and retirement planning.

About the contributors

D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit www.morganstanleyfa.com/ringer
Financial Planning Association™ of Massachusetts has 900 members who specialize in the financial planning process. Many of its members engage in philanthropic pro bono work in their communities, recommend legislation, elevate public awareness, promote financial literacy, and advocate for sound economic and tax policies.
Odysseas Papadimitriou is the founder of CardHub.com, a credit card and gift card marketplace, and WalletHub.com, a personal finance site. He has more than 13 years of experience in the personal finance industry, and previously served as senior director at Capital One.

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