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5 tips to curb rising healthcare costs

In this era of rising healthcare costs, medical expenses can take a healthy bite out of your wallet.

From maintaining a healthy lifestyle and quitting bad habits to switching to generic prescriptions, here are five ways you can curb rising healthcare costs.

1. Shift your lifestyle

The best way to keep those high out-of-pocket costs at bay is to stay healthy. An unhealthy lifestyle — smoking tobacco, excessive drinking, lack of exercise, or being overweight — results in more trips to the doctor’s office, a higher risk of developing a chronic disease, and a rise in the cost of healthcare.

Instead of tackling all of your unhealthy habits at once, focus on one. Healthy habits — like eating whole, unprocessed foods, getting eight hours of sleep each night, and exercising a few times a week — tend to have a snowball effect. Imagine a snowball growing as it rolls down a hill. The more snow that sticks, the larger the snowball grows, and the faster it rolls.

Make one healthy habit part of your routine, and you’ll be energized to tackle more.

2. Use your doctor

Schedule a visit with your primary care doctor to discuss healthy lifestyle habits and your personal and family’s health history.

Receive the standard, recommended (and generally free under most healthcare plans) tests: pap smears, breast exams, mammograms, blood tests, and prostate screenings.

Taking these tests and talking to your doctor regularly and openly can help you minimize your risk for diseases and keep rising healthcare costs down.

3. Control rising healthcare costs with preventive care

Do you know what is and isn’t covered by your plan? Avoid uncovered costs tomorrow by using your covered preventive care today.

Let’s use your teeth as an example. If you take your suggested two trips a year to see the dentist, you’re much less likely to need a root canal. Why? These check-ups will deep-clean your teeth and identify any signs of future issues. If your dentist sees you have gingivitis, he or she may help you adjust your brushing and flossing techniques.

If you’re not making time for preventive care, you’re setting yourself up to spend money in the future you might otherwise avoid. Your health plan wants you to be healthy, so work with it, not against it.

4. Stay in-network

Only an estimated 8% of people see out-of-network physicians. This is great news if you’re in the 92%! If you’re one of the 8%, remember that seeing an out-of-network doctor means you could be responsible for some pretty hefty medical bills.

Let’s say you see a doctor for a $425 visit. If the doctor is in-network, you’ll likely only have to pay your copay or between $15 and $50 for an office visit. (Expect to see higher copays for specialists than for primary care doctors.)

But if your doctor is out-of-network, you’ll foot the entire bill. That’s a $400 difference. Ouch!

5. Go generic

50% of Americans take two prescription medications daily, and 20% of Americans take at least five different medications.

Prescription drugs can be broken down into two categories: brand name and generic. Generic drugs are modeled after the brand-name drug and are required to have the “same active ingredient, strength, dosage, form and route of administration as the brand-name product.”

What’s the difference, then?

Price. You’ll see between 80 to 85% lower prices on generic drugs compared with their brand name counterparts. Most importantly, research shows that generic drugs work just as well as brand-name drugs. Ask your doctor if your prescription has a generic alternative, which will help you offset potential rising healthcare costs.

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