Doctor Can Save Your Money


Doctors are health experts, not billing experts, so they may not know how much every drug or exam costs. But that doesn’t mean they can’t save you money on health costs. Here are six things to ask about next time you head in for an appointment.

1. Prescribing Higher Doses
When it comes to prescription drugs, price and dosage don’t always line up. So if you take a daily medication and there’s a double dose available, it probably doesn’t cost twice as much as the one you take now. Some pills – but not all – can be safely split with your doctor’s blessing, saving you money on that drug each month. You can call the office or ask at your next appointment whether this applies to any of your regular medications. If so, be sure to purchase a pill splitter from a drug store for $5 to $10 to ensure equal dosing, and always follow your doctor’s instructions.

2. Reaching Out to Your Insurance Provider
Sometimes your health insurance provider will require that your doctor get authorization for a procedure before it will be covered. This preauthorization occurs when your physician’s office contacts your insurance provider on your behalf and explains why a drug or test is necessary to ensure that the company will cover a portion of the charges. If your policy requires prior authorization for something like an MRI and it’s not obtained, chances are the claim will be denied. In that case, you can contact the doctor’s office and ask the staff to correct this with the insurance company because it’s their responsibility to get the authorization.

Other times, your insurance policy just doesn’t cover something you need and you’ve already been stuck with the bill. If this happens, you may not be out of luck quite yet. Your doctor can then contact your insurance provider with a letter of medical necessity and explain why the service is needed, so that the insurer can elect to cover it anyway. A letter of medical necessity may also be required if you have a health savings account and need to withdraw funds to cover medical bills. Withdrawing money from an HSA for any other reason will result in hefty fees or taxes.

3. Providing Free Samples
Thousands of pharmaceutical representatives visit doctors across the country with the hopes of persuading doctors to prescribe their drug. They bring samples and coupons, along with the latest safety information for the product. Most samples are for a few days or a week’s worth of the medication, which is perfect if you are new to the medication and want to try it before purchasing a full prescription. Samples are primarily available for brand-name drugs, which can be costly even after insurance, so trying before you buy can save a lot of money, especially if you decide not to take it due to side effects.

4. Prescribing Generics
If you’ve been using a brand-name drug and a generic is available, chances are it will have the same positive effects but cost you a lot less. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that generic drugs cost up to 85 percent less than their branded counterparts. It is a common misconception that generic drugs are less effective or unsafe, but that’s just not true. The FDA has the same quality, safety, and efficacy rules for generics as it does for brand-name drugs. So why do generics cost less? The original makers of the branded drug had to foot the bill for years of clinical trials and development to ensure they brought a safe, effective product to market. They’re trying to make that money back, but they’re not necessarily selling a superior product.

5. Providing Preventive Care
Prevention really is the best medicine, which is why the health care reform law mandates free preventive services. Simply listening to your body’s cues isn’t always enough; many conditions do not show obvious symptoms at first but can be detected by tests. Knowing about a medical condition in its early stages can save you a ton of grief and pain down the road, especially if you’re able to stop the problem or slow its progression. Because illness is rarely cheap, preventive care can also save you a lot of money. 

6. Referring to Assistance Programs
There are many assistance programs for people who can’t afford drugs, devices, or medical care, and your doctor probably knows about them. In fact, the best way to get information about patient assistance programs is through a trusted doctor. If you go to a specialist for a chronic illness or condition, that doctor is more likely to have information on these programs, because lifelong diseases cost more to manage and are more likely to have applicable assistance programs. Ask your doctor if you qualify for any assistance programs.

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