This is a guest post from Ron at The Wisdom Journal where he writes about personal finance, business, and life in general. Visit his site and consider subscribing to his blog.

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Please don’t cheap out on your health, it just isn’t worth it. But you can be much more cost-conscious about how your health dollars are spent.

Here are 10 tips to help stretch your healthcare dollar:

1. Take good care of yourself on the front end! Eat healthy, well-balanced, colorful meals. Exercise regularly and get plenty of rest. All these are common sense items, but they are the first steps to avoiding having to spend those health care dollars in the first place.

2. Stay in your insurer’s network. Only use doctors, hospitals, specialists, and other health care providers inside your insurer’s network unless it’s an emergency. This one decision could save you thousands of dollars in medical bills, since your in-network providers are reimbursed to you at higher rates than out-of-network providers. Visit a non-network provider for a non-emergency and you’ll probably need a defibrillator. But if you have a real emergency, use whatever health care provider you can get to first.

3. Negotiate those prices. Just a couple of decades ago, doctors might be paid with livestock or garden vegetables, but while you probably can’t pay for a procedure with a new-born calf, price negotiation is often an effective technique for lowering your prices with a doctor or a dentist. The key is information, so find out how much your insurer is willing to cover for your procedure, and relay that information to your doctor to see whether the price will change. Doctors can be more flexible than you’d think because “a fast nickel is better than a slow dime” and insurers are notoriously slow in repayment.

4. Ask about procedures that don’t make sense. You need to stay informed about your health and what your doctor is thinking. If you’ve been scheduled for a procedure that doesn’t make sense, ask why. You’re not challenging the doctor; you just want to stay informed. It also helps to ask, “How much will that cost?” Many times, doctors schedule services only to cover themselves in case of lawsuit. If you sense this is the case, get a second opinion.

5. Ask for an itemized bill and check it. I once was charged $24 for a Tylenol tablet. Since I had asked for an itemized bill, I asked the hospital’s business manager if I could sell them a couple of bottles. “Isn’t $24 for a single tablet a little high?” I asked. She changed it to $1.25. Now, I had insurance to cover it, but this was ridiculous. How many times had the hospital gotten away with it before (and after) me?

6. Take generic medications if your doctor approves. Ask your doctor to prescribe generic versions of the medications you need since they are exactly the same as the name brand products, only much cheaper. If generics aren’t available for your needed medication, request a less expensive, but comparable, prescription if it’s available. Sometimes, a pharmacist is better able to tell you what is comparable and will call your doctor on your behalf. Just ask!

7. Let the Post Office do the driving. Most health insurance drug plans now offer prescriptions by mail for medications that you buy over and over. These generally cost less than buying at a pharmacy and many times you can get a 3 month supply rather than a 30 day supply but you lose that personal touch that your pharmacist can provide. I prefer to buy my medications from a local pharmacy, but that’s just me.

8. Buy wholesale. Wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club, and discount retailers such as Wal-Mart, offer reduced-price prescription drugs. Many grocery stores with pharmacies are offering the same prices as the big boys, so check. Also, you might ask your local pharmacist if he or she can match those prices.

9. They still look good!. As long as your eyeglass frames are in good shape, when it’s time to change your prescription, keep those frames and have new lenses added.

10. Find prescription discounts online. You can utilize sites such as OptomizeRx, which offers rebates and coupons to help reduce the cost of individual prescriptions by as much as $70. But be careful. There are many scams when it comes to online prescriptions.

Health care costs are projected to continue rising ahead of the inflation rate, so we have to constantly stay on top of ways to reduce your costs and stretch your health care dollar.

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  1. Anonymous // July 23, 2008 at 11:22 AM  

    Dont forget to get a high deductible, that could save you a ton. It did for us!

  2. Anonymous // July 23, 2008 at 6:21 PM  

    I would add: enroll in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) if offered. A good minimum target amount would be your deductible, more if some items you need are not covered by your insurance (glasses/contacts, OTC meds, etc).
    Nice summary!

  3. Anonymous // July 23, 2008 at 7:57 PM  

    I am currently having my charges reviewed after a procedure did not go as planned, which required me to return to the doctor twice and buy a prescription. I am hoping to at least have the extra charges incurred taken off.