Controlling Rising Health Care Costs

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Over the past 10 years, annual spending on health care in the U.S. has risen from $4,296 per person to $7,421 – an increase of 73%.* For anyone trying to stick to a budget, finding ways to save on health care costs is a big priority. Here are six tips.

Maintain Good Health

1. Lead a healthy lifestyle. Staying healthy is the best way to reduce health care costs. Eat a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with lean proteins and low-fat dairy products. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Get enough sleep, and keep stress under control by finding time to relax every day. If you smoke, quit. And if you drink alcohol, be sure it’s in moderation. Avoid sunburn by applying sunscreen.

2. Get regular health screenings. Blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests, mammograms, etc. can detect conditions that require attention early, when treatment is usually both more successful and less expensive.

3. Stay safe. Maintain working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers on each floor of your home. Help prevent falls by making sure stairways are well lit and that area rugs have nonskid backings. Use safety devices such as seat belts in the car and bike helmets and other appropriate protective gear when participating in sports.

Choose Services Carefully

4. Use the appropriate service option for your situation. Unnecessary emergency room (ER) visits add to individual and health plan expenses. Treatment may cost more than 10 times as much in an ER as in a doctor's office.** Don’t go to the ER if an urgent care facility could handle your problem. And if the condition isn’t urgent, wait and make an appointment at your regular clinic.

5. Know when medical care is needed, and when it isn't. If you have a cold, for instance, your doctor won’t be able to offer much more than the standard advice: Stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids. However, if symptoms persist or grow more serious, you should see a doctor.

6. Use 24-hour nurse-on-call services. With just one free phone call, you’re connected to an experienced nurse who can help you decide whether your condition warrants a trip to the doctor’s office or emergency room. If treating yourself is appropriate, the nurse can give you recommendations over the phone.

Enjoy Good Fiscal and Physical Health

By putting a little thought into your health and your health care choices, you can help keep costs in line. Keeping yourself and your budget healthy can go hand-in-hand.

* Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
** Source: University of Chicago Medical Center.