Save on Doctor Bills & Health Tests

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Be organized.


Set up a filing system for all your medical bills, EOBs, receipts for payment, etc. This makes it easier to find what you need.

•  Keep track of medical bills for each family member.

•  Keep a tally for the total amount spent. Then you can tell when you reach individual and family “deductibles” and maximum “out-of-pocket” expenses. Your insurance plan won’t start paying until you reach your deductible for the year. Once you have reached your out-of-pocket maximum for the year, the insurance plan pays the whole bill on services they cover.

•  If you have met your deductible, and especially if you have met your out-of-pocket maximum, schedule follow-up visits, etc. before the year is over. In other words, don’t wait until January to see the doctor. It will cost you less for a doctor visit or other health care service before the end of the year.

Save on doctor’s fees.

•  Before you go, ask how much the visit will cost. At each visit, ask again.

•  Ask your doctor if fees are negotiable. Ask if you can be charged less, especially if you are on a limited income.

•  Sometimes the doctor’s fee is more than your insurance will pay. If so, ask if your doctor will take what your insurance pays and not ask you for more.

•  Ask if your doctor will give you a discount for paying at the time of your visit.

•  Ask for a statement for your insurance company, if you need it. Ask that the right diagnostic and procedure codes be listed.

Ask why?

The Food & Drug Administration says that 20 to 60% of medical tests performed aren’t needed. When your doctor prescribes a test or X-ray, ask why it is needed. Ask about risks and what your costs will be. To save time and the cost of more X-rays, find out if any X-rays you’ve already had could be used.

Grade at-home tests.

At-home tests can be cheaper and save you a trip to the doctor. But some at-home tests are not as accurate as lab tests. Your doctor or pharmacist can answer your questions about at-home tests.

Study for that test.

You have to prepare for some lab tests. Find out what to do before you take the test. For example, you may need to stop eating the night before, follow a special diet, or stop taking all medicines. Get instructions in writing. It’s very important that you follow them. If you don’t, it could ruin the test results.

Save on costs for medical supplies and equipment.

First, find out what your health insurance covers for items you need. A prescription may be needed for items to be covered. Check, too, with your senior center, your church, and local agencies for free and used items, such as a wheelchair, a walker, etc. You can also check out Web sites that buy and sell items, such as

Testing, testing.

Test results can be wrong. If your doctor suggests surgery or an expensive treatment based on a test’s results, you may want to have the test again.

Save with self-care.

It is estimated that 23% of all doctor visits could be treated with self-care.

Use online medical resources.

Use credible sites. Look for ones that pass national standards. Examples are ones with the letters HON or URAC.

Know when to go.

If you have access to a Nurse Advice Line, use it to find out what you can do to treat the problem yourself or if you need to seek medical care.

Take part in free or low-cost screening tests.

These may be held at local health fairs and hospitals and at your place of work. Common things checked are blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol. Find out about these from your local newspapers, your work site, your church, and ads that come in the mail.

Emergency or not?

Every year, as many as 55% of emergency room visits are not necessary. When your problem is not a medical emergency, see a doctor. Or, go to a walk-in clinic. Walk-in clinics are open evenings and on weekends.

Find out about national health observances.

Days, weeks, or months are devoted to promote certain health concerns. For example, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Free and low-cost mammograms are likely to be offered this month. Find out more from the National Health Information Center at and the National Wellness Institute at

Back to school.

Colleges offer free or low-cost health services to students. Check the school’s Web site for information. Health care can be given on campus. It may be given at clinics or even medical schools near the campus. Some medical schools have clinics that offer reduced cost services to the public, too. Find out if any are near you.

First do no harm.

Medical studies report a new “breakthrough” or a new treatment almost every day. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s good for you. Before you try a new treatment, check with your doctor to make sure it is okay for you. Get facts on products from:

Ask for seconds.

Every year, people have six to 10 million surgeries they don’t need. One way to avoid a surgery you don’t need is to get a second opinion from another doctor. When you go to the second doctor, bring copies of your records and tests. That way, you won’t waste time and money having them done again. Check with your health insurance plan to find out if a second opinion is paid for.

Get help to pay for health problems.

Find out places you can get help to pay for many health care conditions from MedlinePlus® at Search for “medical financial assistance.”

Seek out services from support staff.

Schedule visits with the doctor’s Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner. The cost may be less. You may also be able to spend more time discussing your needs.

Time is money!

The average wait time in a doctor’s office is about 20 minutes, but the wait time can be much longer. Schedule office visits for times that are less likely to be busy, such as the first appointment of the day. You can also call ahead to see if the doctor is on schedule and ask what time you should come.

Help can be a call or click away.

When you can, call or e-mail your doctor for advice. Find out the doctor’s rules for phone calling and e-mailing.

Fee finding.

Before you have surgery or other medical procedures, your health care provider will contact your health insurance company to find out if and how much of the cost is a covered expense. Then you’ll know what, if any, fees you will be required to pay.

Ask for itemized bills.

Get these from your doctor, clinic, etc. If you don’t, you may be sent a bill just for total charges. This won’t show the cost for each procedure, test, etc. You won’t be able to see if you were charged for services you did not receive.

Make sure bills are correct.

Check all medical bills and “explanation of benefits” (EOBs) from your health insurance plan. Many bills have mistakes. If you find a mistake, call the phone number on the billing statement.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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