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You Can Keep Your Hospital Costs in Check

The most painful part of a hospital visit can be your bill, even if your health care plan pays a high percentage of the expenses. Taking the following steps can help you reduce the cost of a hospital stay.

  • Make sure a hospital visit is necessary. There may be alternatives to surgery, or perhaps the procedure could be done on an outpatient basis.

  • Always question the purpose of tests and procedures. Ask why a test or a procedure is necessary or recommended for your situation. The answers can help you determine if it's a cost-effective option.

  • Keep a daily log of tests, medications, doctor's visits, personal items received and consultations with specialists. Doing so will allow you to check the accuracy of your hospital bill. If you're too ill to keep such a log, ask a friend or relative to do so.

Agree only to those tests pertinent to your treatment. Get your doctor involved if that creates problems with the hospital.

CHECKING YOUR BILL

Carefully check your hospital bill before you check out; mistakes are common. The following questions can help you find possible errors.

  • Was I billed for the right kind of room for the right number of days?

  • Was I billed twice for the same procedure or test?

  • Was I billed for admission testing even though I had all my tests done before admission?

  • Was I billed for procedures, tests or medications I did not have?

  • Was I billed for visits by specialists that I did not receive?

  • Was I billed for the right number for treatments I received from physical, speech, or other therapists?

  • Was I charged for daily hospital visits by my doctor that did not occur?

  • Was I billed for medications to take at home even though I refused them?

Call the hospital accounting office and request an adjustment if you find an error. If you have difficulty resolving your complaint, speak with your insurance company, employee benefits department or your state's Department of Consumer Affairs.

Taking Medicine the Right Way

The World Health Organization estimates that half of all people fail to take medicines correctly. We take them too often or not often enough, or in the wrong doses at the wrong times.

Such practices jeopardize our health, causing us to spend more time and money in our doctors' offices.

The following guidelines can help you reduce your health care costs by helping you understand how to take medications correctly.

Ask your doctor the following questions when you're given a new prescription:

  • What is the name of the medicine and what does it do?

  • How much of the medicine should I take, when should I take it, and for how long?

  • What are the possible side effects and what should I do if they occur?

  • What foods, beverages, other prescriptions, and nonprescription medications should I avoid?

  • Can you provide me with written information about this medicine?

These tips will help you improve your drug compliance:

  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist which other medicines (including nonprescription drugs) you are taking.

  • Discuss with your doctor any problems, such as allergic reactions or side effects, you've had with medications.

  • Don't take another person's prescription medicine, even if your symptoms are similar.

  • Take all the medication in a prescription if you're instructed to do so.

  • Read and save all the information that comes with your medicine.

How to Reduce Your Doctor Bills

Even if you have health insurance, soaring medical costs can take a bite out of your income.

The following money-saving strategies are designed to help you reduce your medical costs by advising you to take appropriate actions before you visit your doctor, during an appointment, and after you leave your physician's office.

BEFORE YOU GO

Medical appointments cost you money and time. These suggestions can help you avoid doctor visits except when necessary.

  • Call for advice before scheduling an appointment. Many doctors and nurses set aside time each day to answer questions over the phone. Call first if you have questions regarding the side effects of a new prescription or are having trouble managing your medications.

  • Self-treat simple health care problems. You can treat a common cold, diarrhea, headaches, and muscle aches and pains with over-the-counter medications. Ask your pharmacist for advice if you're unsure which nonprescription drugs to take. Seek medical care if your symptoms linger or worsen.

  • Avoid specialists. Although a specialist is necessary sometimes, your general practitioner can treat most illnesses and conditions for a lower charge.

  • Avoid emergency rooms unless an illness is life-threatening. An emergency room visit usually costs twice as much as a doctor visit.

AT THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE

If you must visit your doctor, these suggestions can help you contain costs.

  • Explain your symptoms in an organized fashion, beginning with your major complaint. If you have several problems, jot them down on a piece of paper before you arrive. Truthfully answer any questions your doctor asks.

  • Ask your doctor about suggested treatments or therapies before you agree to them. There may big difference in their cost, recovery time, and risks and benefits.

  • Give your doctor a list of all medications you're taking. Or bring your medications, vitamins and any herbal remedies you're taking along with you so the doctor can check for possible interactions with new prescriptions that may be prescribed.

AFTER YOU LEAVE

These guidelines can help you get and stay well, so you can avoid repeat visits.

  • Follow your doctor's advice. If your physician suggests you stop smoking or drinking, start exercising, improve your diet, or get more rest, try to do so. Many health problems can be improved through a change in health and lifestyle habits.

  • Take prescription medications as prescribed. For example, don't stop taking an antibiotic because you feel better. If you stop taking the antibiotics, the infection could return and be more difficult to treat,

  • Beware of drug interactions with food, alcohol, and other medications. Always ask your pharmacist if there are interactions you should be aware of when filling a new prescription.

  • Call your doctor if you experience bothersome side effects or if your symptoms don't improve after a few days. He or she may change your dosage or switch you to a different medication.

Finally, keep a file of all your medical expenses. Receipts for doctor visits, hospital stays and prescription drugs are required when filing for insurance and Medicare benefits.

How to Save Money on All Your Medicines

You can control your health care costs without compromising the quality of your care by asking questions that could help you save money on medications.

To reduce the cost of medication:

  • Ask for generic drugs. You can save a lot by using generics. They often cost much less than their brand-name counterparts.

  • Ask your doctor for free samples of your medications. They're supplied to doctors for that purpose.

  • Ask about discounts. Your pharmacy may offer discounts for seniors, infants, children, and students, or it may have periodic sales.

  • Discuss prescriptions with your doctor. Ask if you really need a particular prescription or whether an alternative diet or exercise regimen could provide the same results.

Whether you're buying medication, visiting a doctor's office, or checking into the hospital, shop around. Prices can vary significantly. Reducing your medical costs will take some footwork, but your efforts will be rewarded.

For More Information

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, call 301-427-1104 or visit www.ahrq.gov.
 

ATTENTION: Information delivered through Vitality-on-Demand(TM) is the opinion of the sourced authors and organizations. Personal decisions regarding health, diet, exercise or other matters should be made only after consultation with the reader's own medical and professional advisers. This material MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED FOR REDISTRIBUTION without written permission from Vitality®.





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© 2011 Krames StayWell 2011. The information in this newsletter is intended to be used as a general guideline and should not replace the advice of your doctor. Always consult your doctor for personal decisions. Models used for illustrative purposes only. Material may not be reproduced without written permission from StayWell Custom Communications.