Medical debt mayhem: Five tips for reducing your family’s health care costs

Are you struggling with medical debt? Here are five tips for reducing your family’s health care costs.

American citizens are intimately familiar with the anxiety medical bills can stir up, even with health insurance. No age group or income bracket is immune to racked-up healthcare costs, and more than half of Americans with unpaid medical expenses have no other debts listed on their credit reports.

As of 2021, nearly one in four US adults cannot fully settle a recent medical bill, causing many to forgo medical care altogether out of fear of debilitating healthcare costs.

A high cost for debt-ridden individuals is outstanding hospital bills, with expensive prescriptions, doctor’s bills, and steep insurance premiums falling closely behind. As a result, people have no choice but to take on more credit card debt to pay off their towering medical bills. 

Besides inducing stress, medical debt can leave a lasting impression on your financial health if mishandled. Overdue medical bills lead to late fees, nagging collections agencies, and—in worst-case scenarios— legal action. At the very least, not being able to pay medical bills will cause your credit score to fall, which can affect approval rates for various lines of credit.

As medical costs continue to rise in America, it’s necessary to be conscious of how you could be saving money in the healthcare arena. Here are a few ways you can dodge anxiety and reduce your family’s health care costs.

1) Shop for affordable health insurance strategically 

On average, uninsured individuals have about $10,000 more in medical debt than insured counterparts. Acquiring affordable health insurance is an excellent place to start if you aim to spend less money on medical expenses, and employer-sponsored healthcare offers various package options.

If your employer doesn’t provide insurance coverage, you can explore the healthcare marketplace to purchase ACA-compatible plans. You can also buy directly from private health insurance companies by going online to sites like the AHiX health insurance marketplace. Be sure to research each insurance company’s plans since they have varying coverage levels and differing premiums. That way, you sidestep additional, unnecessary costs

2) Only visit hospitals as a last resort

Hospitals are necessary for certain emergency medical situations. However, many people who wander into a hospital or ER for care walk out with a hefty bill in hand when an Instacare or lower-cost day surgery center could offer efficient, inexpensive solutions. You will receive the same procedure at a fraction of the cost compared to a hospital, so consider smaller medical centers the next time you need a non-emergency operation. 

3) Cut costs on medication

Prescription medications are often an unavoidable and necessary part of the healing process. However, out-of-pocket costs for medicine are costly in the US, where folks spend an average of $1200 per-person per-year on medication.

To save money on prescriptions, ask your doctor for a generic version of your drug – they’re almost always cheaper than the name brand. You can also check for online coupons via companies like GoodRx to save money at the pharmacy. 

4) Be prepared for emergency care

To make the right decisions when a health emergency happens, be sure to discuss possible scenarios ahead of time. That way, when an accident does happen, you’ll have a better understanding of which medical facility will best suit your needs.

Another way you can prepare for an emergency is by having savings specifically set-aside for medical emergencies. Look into setting up an HSA or FSA account for such incidents to lessen the inevitable financial blow. 

5) Maintain your physical health

The best way to avoid high medical costs is to dodge them altogether. True, it is impossible to anticipate an accident or sudden illness, which is why health insurance is critical. However, by avoiding high-risk activities like smoking, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight, you can decrease the risk of developing health problems later on and steer clear of expensive medical procedures.  

How can you reduce your medical expenses?

Although healthcare expenses are often unavoidable, there are ways to reduce steep fees and incurred debt significantly. By maintaining your physical health, avoiding hospitals when possible, preparing for worst-case scenarios, and shopping around for insurance plans, you can slash your family’s health care costs one averted health crisis at a time.