Americans Spend $414 a Month on Healthcare. Here's How to Save

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on March 14, 2020

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Bill With A Stethoscope

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If healthcare is costing you a bundle, a few smart moves on your part could provide relief.

If healthcare is costing you a bundle, a few smart moves on your part could provide relief.

There are certain expenses in life that are discretionary, like pizza, and there are those that are unavoidable, like healthcare. Make no mistake about it: Medical bills are a huge burden for Americans of all ages. In fact, the typical consumer spends $414 a month on healthcare, reports The Ascent in new research on monthly expenses, and that sum constitutes 8.1% of the average American's budget

If you're tired of spending a fortune to take care of your health, a few smart moves on your part could help ease that burden. Here are some key steps to take. 

1. Understand your health benefits

The more familiar you are with your health insurance coverage and policies, the less likely you’ll be to make a mistake that results in your claims getting denied. For example, some plans require you to obtain a referral from a primary care doctor before seeing a specialist. Fail to do so, and you could get stuck with a multi-hundred-dollar bill your insurance company otherwise would've paid. Similarly, your insurance company might require you to get preauthorized for specific diagnostic tests or procedures. Going through the proper channels could spare you a host of bills.

Another thing: Aim to stay in-network when seeing healthcare providers. Doing so could keep you from having to pay more money out of pocket. 

2. Be smart about your prescriptions

If you take prescription medication, you might manage to lower your costs simply by choosing generics over brand-name drugs. Ask your doctor if that's a possibility, because doing so could shrink your copays substantially. At the same time, look into ordering ongoing prescriptions in bulk. In some cases, a 90-day supply of pills could cost the same or even less than a 30-day supply. 

Additionally, don't hesitate to ask your doctor for free samples if some of the medications you take are costly. Medical offices get free samples all the time, so your doctor may be more than happy to hook you up. 

Finally, if you're really struggling to afford your prescriptions, see if the drug company that makes your medication has a patient assistance program. Generally, you'll get a break on your prescriptions only if you can demonstrate a financial need. But if you're a lower-income household, you may qualify for serious savings.

3. Don't let minor health issues escalate

It's a lot easier, and less expensive, to treat strep throat with antibiotics than it is to handle a bout of pneumonia that lands you in the hospital. Sometimes, addressing medical issues early on can spare you more expensive bills down the line, so while you don't need to run to the doctor every time you get a scratchy throat or paper cut, you should also know when not to be stubborn and schedule an appointment.

4. Review your medical bills carefully before paying them

Sometimes, all it takes is a coding error for your health insurance company to reject a claim it should've paid. Before paying your medical bills, read them carefully and find out why you're responsible for the items you're being charged for. And if things don't look right, question them. For example, if you're being charged $1,000 for a diagnostic test you thought would cost only $100, call the biller in question, as well as your insurance company, to get to the bottom of things. 

You can't get out of paying for medical care -- that's just not realistic. However, what you can do is make every effort to keep your costs to a minimum. The less money you spend on healthcare, the more you'll have on hand for savings or other expenses -- both essential and otherwise. 

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