This article is presented by Kelly Whalen, Consumerism Commentary staff writer.
The costs of health care rose dramatically in the past year for many Americans. Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting firm, measured an increase in group insurance premiums of 6% percent in 2009, and that’s only part of the full health care picture.
While health care reform is stalled in Congress and will not solve all the issues with the behemoth health care industry, there are actions you can take to save thousands of dollars on health care expenses.
- An apple a day. The saying is still true, preventative care is really the best way to stay healthy. A yearly checkup with your doctor, dentist, eye doctor, and gynecologist can help catch illness or disease early as well as give your healthcare provider an understanding of what “normal,” is for you. For instance, one of my children has a normal temperature of 97.5°F, so a 98.6°F reading is actually a slightly elevated fever for her.
- Don’t delay. Some of the largest costs to insurance companies and hospitals are patients who delay treatment. While you shouldn’t run to the doctor every time you have a mild case of the sniffles, ignoring a problem could make it harder to treat. In some cases doctors aren’t quick to make a diagnosis or need multiple tests or opinions. In those cases waiting can be damaging or deadly.
- Avoid the emergency room. The cost of a visit to the ER is five times as expensive as a doctor’s visit according to national averages. Go to your primary care doctor, a Minute Clinic, or an Urgent Care Center instead. If you have health issues or get ill frequently look for a doctor that has weekend office hours, is available by phone, or who does house calls. (Yes, house calls do exist, Virginia.)
- Stay fit. The foundation of good health is being in good shape. Eating well, exercising,, and sleep have a huge impact on how quickly you recover whether whether from a common cold or surgery. Getting better faster means less time out from work, so you can use those vacation days for a real vacation.
- Clean your teeth. It sounds like something your mom would say, but keeping your teeth clean can add years to your life and reduce your medical and dental bills.
- Give yourself a healthcare checkup. Make sure you fully understand your health care benefits and its limitations. You may be paying too much out of pocket, or too much for a plan you don’t fully use. Talk to your HR department, or insurance broker for other options. Look into Health Savings Accounts. This type of account is like an emergency fund for your healthcare expenses. If you have a Flexible Spending Account make sure you are keeping track of the money you are spending and use it before you lose it. Make sure you understand all the benefits of your insurance package. Some insurance companies may cover or offer discounts on services such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, weight loss training, and gym memberships.
While you may be busy or think a visit to the doctor is too expensive, it could save you thousands of dollars and years of your life. Your physical health should go hand in hand with your fiscal health so you can enjoy the fruits of your hard work for as long as possible.
Photo credit: dmason
Updated March 13, 2011 and originally published February 4, 2010.