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As health-care consumers face another year of higher
premiums, and start the clock over on their likely higher
deductibles, many are looking for ways to cut their
health-care costs. Despite the fact that out-of-pocket
costs keep going up, the good news is that consumers
have more control over their costs than they think.
Whether you get coverage through work, Medicare, or
the marketplace, these five tips could save you hundreds
if not thousands of dollars, and keep you and your bank
account a lot healthier in 2018:
1. Choose an independent doctor. Most consumers
know to choose a doctor in their health plan’s network,
but even within your network you will pay far less if you
go to a doctor who is independent and not employed by
a hospital, according to the Association of Independent
Doctors, a national nonprofit dedicated to educating
patients about their options.
Hospitals tack facility fees onto their employed doctors’
bills. These added fees can cause your costs to
increase two to five times, according to the Medicare
Payment Advisory Commission. Plus, because of their
size, hospitals can negotiate for higher payments from
insurance companies, which affects your costs, too.
Finally, because employed doctors are required to
refer you to other hospital-employed specialists, who
also charge higher rates, going to an independent doctor
from the start will help you keep these excess costs from
So, before you make your next appointment, ask the
front office staff whether the practice is independent or
owned by a hospital. You may also find an independent
doctor in your area here (
2. Go to freestanding imaging and surgery centers.
Similarly, going to a freestanding, or independent imaging
center or outpatient surgery center, as opposed to
one owned by a hospital, can save you thousands of dollars.
Independent radiology centers commonly charge
$300 to $500 for a scan that a hospital-owned imaging
center will charge $3,000 to $5,000 for, according to
MedPac. Both are equally good and often read by the
same team of radiologists. For the same reason, if you
need outpatient surgery, ask your doctor to perform it in
a stand-alone surgical center.
3. Ask for the cash price. Price transparency in
health care is hard to come by, but more patients are
demanding it, so they can make informed purchasing
decisions. Ask for the costs up front with your insurance
and without. When a practice or clinic says they simply
can’t tell you what your cost will be because there are too
many variables, that is code for “we’d rather you didn’t
know.” Because most consumers don’t hit their annual
deductibles, asking for the price up front can help them
comparison shop. Plus using a cash discount and not
going through insurance can help consumers realize
huge savings.
4. Avoid the ER. Emergencies happen, but if you
can avoid going to the emergency room, and can get
your care at an urgent-care center you will pay about
10 percent of what you pay for an emergency room visit
for the same treatment. Plus, hospital-based emergency
rooms almost always refer you to their employed doctors,
not to less expensive but equally qualified independent
5. Choose generics. Most often – but not always
– generic prescription drugs are just as effective as
brand medications at as little as 15 percent of the price.
Doctors, however, often prescribe the brand because
it’s what they’re familiar with. Some also get “consulting
fees” from pharmaceuticals to induce them to prescribe
brand. You can typically ask your pharmacist to switch
your prescription to a generic without getting a new prescription
from your doctor.
By following these cost-saving moves, patients won’t
be the only ones who save, said Marni Jameson Carey,
executive director for the association. “We all pay for
health-care in the way of higher premiums and taxes, so
keeping your costs down helps everyone.”
About the Association of Independent Doctors
Founded in 2013, the Association of Independent Doctors
is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping reduce healthcare
costs by helping consumers, businesses and lawmakers
understand the value of keeping America’s doctors independent.
A fast-growing trade association with members in over
30 states coast to coast, AID is a 501(c)(6) based in Winter
Park, Fla. For information, visit

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