National Center for Policy Analysis Senior Fellow Devon Herrick, Ph. D., offers tips to help your clients save on health care.

  1. Review your clients’ insurance options: If your clients are still working, make sure they review their employer’s health plan choices. A health savings account might save money over a PPO or HMO, especially if the employer makes contributions to employees’ accounts. Encourage clients with individual insurance to shop around; paying higher deductibles can help reduce premiums and still maintain major medical coverage.
  2. Ask about cash rates and discounts: If uninsured, negotiate in advance of receiving care; check the Internet for discount card programs that lower costs at hospitals, pharmacies, labs and retail clinics.
  3. Shop for better prescription deals: There are many ways to reduce prescription drug costs, such as therapeutic alternatives or generics. Compare prices among local pharmacies and reputable online sites. For example, Rxaminer.com has free pharmacy cost comparisons. Even if your clients have insurance, these low prices can sometimes beat the negotiated insurance rates. Clients should also talk to their doctors about over-the-counter products to manage temporary or chronic conditions.
  4. Ask about drug samples: For brand name drugs, clients should ask their doctors for samples. Also, go to the drug manufacturer Web site and check for discount coupons, rebates and cost assistance programs.
  5. Cut office-visit costs: Retail clinics (such as MinuteClinic or RediClinic) or telemedicine services (such as TelaDoc) can cost significantly less than traditional office visits. A visit to a walk-in clinic can result in a bill that is less than half of what you’d see from a doctor’s office visit and a fraction of emergency room treatment.
  6. Shop for diagnostic procedures and lab work: Call around and check prices for both cash and the insurance plan’s negotiated rate. Paying up front or filing insurance forms yourself may save significant costs. If you are getting any kind of procedure, make sure, in advance, that all providers are in-network — including the anesthesiologist.
  7. Take advantage of health fairs: Many cash-pay diagnostic facilities and health fairs offer wellness health screenings, lab work and diagnostic imaging at significantly reduced rates. Some services can even be free. Screenings are often bundled with prices up to 80 percent less than hospitals or clinics.
  8. Medical tourism: Uninsured clients, or those with high deductibles, may consider traveling to another country for certain procedures. India and Thailand are considered the best value, but countries such as Mexico and Costa Rica are partnering with prestigious American hospitals to offer high quality health care for 50 percent to 80 percent less.
  9. Do your homework: Search reputable Web sites for information that can help you ask more informed questions and prevent an unnecessary office visit. There are growing numbers of social networking Web sites dedicated to information on specific medical conditions.
  10. Become a less passive patient: Learn to help manage chronic conditions, such as asthma, GERD, allergies or diabetes. Active participation in the daily treatment of your illness can help minimize costly and dangerous complications.