13 Tips on How to Lower Health Care Costs

Written by 
Katee Fletcher
Reviewed by 
Natalia Klusacek, APN
Article at a glance
  • One of the easiest ways patients can lower their medical expenses is by reevaluating how they’re buying their medication. There are a plethora of ways to be more cost-effective when it comes to prescriptions, such as switching to generic brands, splitting pills, and more.

  • Many patients fail to fully understand all of the benefits provided to them within their health insurance plan. Taking the time to speak with an agent and review one’s plan can reveal the number of discounts, benefits, and other cost-saving measures afforded within one’s insurance plan.

  • No one knows when an accident will strike, but it’s good to have a plan if one occurs. Learning about how to plan ahead for urgent care visits can help you reduce spending by a large margin.

  • A great, proactive way for elderly patients to avoid unnecessary medical bills is by staying on top of home repairs and keeping their living space accessible as they age. Home repair maintenance for older adults is as important for their health as it is for their wallet.

How to lower healthcare cost

Many of the tips included in this article refer to proactive ways patients can take charge of their health and avoid unnecessary medical spending down the line. Finding a regular provider, attending annual check-ups, and actively participating in preventive care measures such as necessary screenings, tests, and vaccinations, is the best way to lower future health care costs. However, while there are many ways patients can actively work towards a better health care budget, it’s crucial that a patient is able to speak honestly with their provider. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about alternative care options or to let them know that you’re looking to be more frugal. Providers are there to help you maintain your health and wellbeing, so it’s good to be honest and let them know what your priorities are when it comes to health care.

Save Money on Medication

One of the quickest ways to cut medical spending is to alter the way you’re paying for medicines. When it comes to buying your medications, there are a variety of ways to be more cost-effective. Some examples of this include:

  • Switch to Generic Brands: Generic drugs are the exact same as their brand-name counterparts. Any generic drug on the market has been marked effective and safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, most times, they only cost about half of what brand-name drugs sell for. If looking to save money, ask your provider if any of your medications are offered as less expensive, generic options.

  • Splitting Pills: For certain medications, it’s possible to order a double dose and split the pill. This can often help save money, but it’s essential to speak with your provider beforehand to make sure this option is FDA-approved and safe. To reiterate, it is not safe for all medications to be cut, therefore, it’s critical that a patient speaks with their provider prior to ensure this option is FDA-approved and safe.

  • Online Pharmacy Orders: For long-term medications, ordering from online pharmacies can help to cut costs as it’s likely they offer a bulk supply for a lower co-pay. Before placing an order, be sure to contact your provider to ensure the website is safe and that your prescription is being accurately requested.

Supplemental Coverage: Depending on your income and healthcare needs, you may be eligible for supplemental health coverage. Use sites such as NeedyMeds, Medicine Assistance Tool, Optum Perks, and more to find discount plans and drug coupons.

Choose accurate health insurance plan

Choose an Accurate Health Insurance Plan

The best way to avoid overspending is by first selecting a healthcare plan that suits your all-around needs. When it comes to health insurance, there are so many options to choose from. Take your time to research the options made available to you and reflect on what your wants and needs are when it comes to healthcare. Some questions to consider prior to selecting insurance include:

  • How much are you willing to contribute monthly to your health insurance?

  • What’s an appropriate range for your deductible to be at?

  • Are your preferred providers and hospitals within your potential insurance network?

  • Do you qualify for Medicaid or Medicare at this time?

  • Will you need assistance with transportation to and from your provider’s office?

  • Does your plan cover your current medications and is the cost acceptable for those medications?

  • How much are you able or willing to pay in copays for specialist visits?

To learn more about health insurance options and which plans may be available to you, visit this source.

Fully Understand & Take Advantage of Your Benefits

In order to take complete advantage of your health insurance plan, you must understand the full scope of benefits provided to you within that plan. Don’t hesitate to contact an associate from your insurance team to clarify any questions you may have about your plan. Many patients don’t know that mental health visits, transportation costs, gym membership discounts, and more are covered by select insurance programs. Once you understand the wide-ranging spectrum of your benefits, you can fully reap them. 

Be sure to take advantage of any annual health visits, routine screenings, and appropriate vaccinations that are afforded to you. Participating in preventive care measures helps patients to avoid health problems down the line, in turn, cutting back on potential health care expenses.

Note: Oak Street Health has providers and teams that are trained and ready to discuss health insurance benefits with their patients. 

Learn About Outpatient Facilities

If the time comes when surgery is needed, be sure to ask your doctor about the possibility of having it conducted at an outpatient clinic. Many times, procedures are more affordable at outpatient facilities versus in a hospital.

Choose In-Network Providers

Regardless of the health insurance plan you choose, it’s almost always going to be less expensive to choose in-network providers and hospitals instead of out-of-network ones. For this reason, it’s crucial to make sure any preferred providers or hospitals are included in an insurance plan before signing up for it. If you’re unsure whether or not a provider is in-network, don’t hesitate to contact an agent from your insurance company. 

Plan Ahead for Urgent Care Visits

No one wants to visit urgent care, however, accidents happen, and when they do, it’s important to be prepared for them. 

A major part of planning ahead for urgent care visits is understanding which ailments require emergency aid and which can wait to be seen by a primary care provider. A primary care provider can be seen when a patient is attending an annual physical, receiving preventive vaccines or booster shots, experiencing a mild fever or minor aches and pains, and/​or dealing with a lingering cough or cold. However, if a patient is experiencing a medical problem that is life-threatening, they should immediately seek emergency medical attention. Medical problems that are viewed as life-threatening include but are not limited to: chest pains or other symptoms of heart attack or stroke, one or many seizures, loss of consciousness, severe abdominal pain, head injury, poisoning, difficulty breathing, intense cuts, burns, or uncontrollable bleeding, and high fever in young children or the elderly.

When severe pain erupts or an emergency situation occurs, it’s also critical to know where to go. Visiting urgent care is the most frugal option when seeking immediate care. However, if problems are more critical, make sure you know of a local hospital or emergency room that accepts your health insurance in an attempt to avoid astronomical medical bills or fees.

Acquire a Health Savings Account (HSA)

Many employers offer what is known as a health savings account (HSA), which allows you to set aside pre-taxed money that can be used for various health care expenses. These savings accounts also earn interest and in the end, can help to save you a lot of money on extra health care costs. Speak to your employer about the possibility of acquiring an HSA.


Note: To learn more about HSAs and other medical savings account options within the health care system, visit this source.

Rely on peer support systems

Rely on Peer Support Systems

Increasing quality time spent with loved ones helps to boost a patient’s livelihood. Not to mention, it gives them a sturdy support system to rely on if their health begins to decline. Stanford conducted an experiment using a pilot program through AgeWell Global that demonstrated how older patients can especially benefit from having an active peer support system while undergoing medical care. In this experiment, other elderly adults visited their chronically ill peers to provide them with companionship during health screenings. In the end, it was found that 30-day readmission rates decreased by 25% for these ill patients. Dr. Rinaldo, the head of this experiment, calculated that if similar programs were widely adopted, as much as a collective $438 million could be saved annually for patients.

Participate in Occupational Therapy

In tandem with the Stanford experiment discussed earlier, Dr. Rinaldo also discovered that health care costs can be reduced over time with the employment of an occupational therapist. If patients actively participate in occupational therapy, they’re more likely to know what they’re capable of daily. Being aware of what they can handle helps to reduce potential risks, thus decreasing the likelihood of hospitalization or long-term care due to injury.

Stay on Top of Home Repairs

As patients age, it’s important that their house ages with them. Elderly patients should know of a handyman that can help them conquer any necessary home repairs. Not to mention, older patients may need assistance with sustaining their home as an accessible living space e.g. moving items to lower cabinets to avoid reaching, installing grab bars in showers, placing extra guide rails on stairs, and more. Staying on top of home repairs in this manner will help to reduce the risk of falls and other common injuries for older adults. With a decreased risk of injury, costs on hospitalizations or long-term care facilities will decrease as well.

Maintain Your Overall Health

Maintaining one’s overall health and wellbeing through a well-rounded diet and exercise plan is linked to many positive benefits. These benefits include a boosted mindset, improved sleep, healthier bones and muscles, improved coordination and balance, and a decreased likelihood of developing a chronic condition or disease. In fact, the CDC notes that those, who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive.” This statistic goes to show that nourishing your body and overall health leads to an increased chance of living longer. All in all, staying active and eating healthy helps to cut costs preventively as it keeps your body fit and away from disease, and thus medical expenses.

Note: To learn more about the value of physical activity in one’s daily life and how to get started on a fitness routine, visit this source.

Reduce stress levels

Reduce Stress Levels

Living with chronic stress boosts catecholamine and suppresses T cell levels, leading to one’s immune system being suppressed and thus, putting a patient at a greater risk of developing an illness. Actively working on ways to reduce stress levels assists patients in lowering their health care costs proactively because less stress comes with fewer diseases and fewer diseases come with fewer medical bills. When looking to lower stress levels, patients should try participating in calming activities such as yoga, tai chi, breathwork, meditation, aromatherapy, and more.

Note: To learn more about various relaxation techniques, visit this source.

Honestly Communicate Your Healthcare Goals

In conjunction with the Stanford study mentioned above, Dr. Rinaldo also uncovered that patients who were honest about their healthcare goals with loved ones saved $13,956, on average, in the last six months of their life. When patients establish open and honest relationships with their family members, friends, providers, and others involved in their healthcare, it helps them to avoid unnecessary medical expenses. Patients should empower themselves by being truthful about their healthcare goals and what they envision for their end-of-life plan.

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Experience the Oak Street Health difference, and see what it’s like to be treated by a care team who are experts at caring for older adults.

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