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Jul-19-2018 01:20printcomments

Seniors: Use These 6 Strategies to Reduce Your Out-of-Pocket Healthcare Costs

Medical costs can best be managed with some planning.

Consumer Reports
Image: Consumer Reports

(SALEM, Ore.) - Out-of-pocket healthcare costs are no joke. According to AARP, a healthy 65-year-old couple retiring in 2013 needed to budget $240,000 for lifetime healthcare costs, including out-of-pocket expenses.

That’s more than most people have in the bank when they retire.

No matter what you do, you can’t completely escape out-of-pocket healthcare costs. But you can certainly take realistic steps to reduce these expenses and keep more of your hard-earned money for more enjoyable pursuits. Here’s what to do.

1. Research Costs for Office Visits and Procedures in Your Area

Costs for basic (and not-so-basic) healthcare services vary widely over remarkably small distances. Under the right circumstances, going five miles out of your way for a routine procedure like a biopsy or colonoscopy can cut your out-of-pocket costs by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, most health systems don’t believe in price transparency; you’ll need to press their billing departments on costs. A couple hours of work could go a long way, though.

2. Shop Around for Medicare Advantage Plans

If you’re eligible for Medicare, you might assume worries about out-of-pocket healthcare costs are safely in the rearview.

The bad news is that’s usually not the case. Depending on your healthcare needs, you may benefit from a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C) that covers procedures and services that “regular” Medicare won’t.

Just as you’d shop around for mainline insurance plans, it’s very important that you do your due diligence to lower cost of Medicare Advantage plans without compromising the services and benefits you require.

3. Avoid the Emergency Room

Emergency room visits can be ruinous, even for patients with decent insurance plans. For non-emergent injuries and illnesses, skip the ER and head to the urgent care clinic. Most sizable communities have at least one 24-hour urgent care facility.

4. Drive Yourself to the Hospital

If you do have to go to the ER, drive yourself — or get someone to drive you. (You might not be in shape to drive, after all.) Even a short ambulance ride carries a four-figure price tag, and there’s simply no reason to call one if you don’t need professional medical attention en route.

5. Budget for Low-Deductible Plans

Under normal circumstances, out-of-pocket healthcare costs rise in direct proportion to insurance deductibles: the higher the deductible, the higher the total out of pocket expense.

If unexpected healthcare expenses are your biggest worry, and your budget can bear higher monthly premiums, then you’ll want to seek out low-deductible plans designed to limit expenditures. They’re out there — for the right price.

6. Try Not to Venture Outside Your Network

This is easier said than done while you’re traveling or facing a time-sensitive emergency, but it’s absolutely worth keeping in mind under normal circumstances. Using healthcare services outside your insurance network is the fastest way to rack up expenses, particularly if your plan is designed with strict network limits.

Are Your Healthcare Costs Too High?

Unless you know something the rest of us don’t, your answer to this question is almost certainly “yes.”

Don’t throw in the towel just yet. Using the six tactics outlined above, you can reduce your out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Sure, you’ll still pay for office consults, hospital visits, and especially elective procedures. But those costs might not feel ruinous. They might even feel manageable.

Source: Salem-News.com Special Features Dept.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.