​5 Simple Ways to Lower your Health Care Costs

Medical expenses can add up quickly. There are many actions you can take to lower your health care costs beyond choosing affordable health insurance. Although, there are plenty of ways to improve your health here are a few tips.

1. See your doctor regularly.

It’s hard to stress the importance of preventive care, but it’s one of the easiest ways to help reduce health care costs for you and your family. Visit the doctor for an annual physical to be sure you are in good overall health.

Under the Affordable Care Act, many preventive services are covered at no extra cost to patients. This means no copayment, co-insurance, or deductible apply to preventive services covered under the law.

Read the full list of preventive services covered.

2. Perform self-exams and track new symptoms.

Becoming familiar with your body can help alert you to problems before they escalate into major health concerns. For example, women perform monthly breast self-exams, which are not recommended as a screening tool but rather a way to become aware of the normal look and feel in order to detect changes, according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The American Cancer Society advises that men perform testicular self-exams each month. Self-screenings for skin cancer and oral cancer are recommended for everyone as well.

If you notice a lump, skin changes or if you feel off without explanation, trust that your body is telling you something and don’t wait to be seen. Track your symptoms to help your provider and schedule an appointment to discuss them.

3. Save the emergency room for emergencies.

If you have a cold, see if you can feel better with over-the-counter medicine, fluids and rest. Otherwise, schedule an appointment with your family doctor. Look into same- or next-day appointments or consider a trip to a walk-in clinic or look into using telemedicine. for minor illnesses and injuries.

Going immediately to the emergency room will undoubtedly be more expensive than a visit to your local pharmacy or primary care physician. Save the ER for life-threatening situations. Urgent care is another alternative for after-hours visits or situations in which you need treatment right away but can’t get an appointment. Although, urgent care will cost less than the ER, it will still be more expensive than a regular appointment.

4. Take care of your body now.

A healthy diet full of nutrient-dense foods and regular exercise could drive down your health care costs over time. A healthy lifestyle can help save you money on prescription drugs and frequent doctor visits due to ongoing illnesses. These improvements will likely make you feel more energized and increase your sense of well-being.

Eating healthy and getting more exercise doesn’t mean joining an expensive gym or shopping at specialty food stores. You can make changes to your life today by starting small. If you don’t currently eat any produce start by adding 1 fruit and 1 vegetable that you like to each meal then slowly add in more variety. Buy foods in their whole fresh form versus pre-packaged foods.

Embrace taking stairs and walking when you have the chance. Lastly, make family and friend time involve movement.

5. Practice safety and hygiene.

Accidents happen, and they often result in injury. Taking minor actions to prevent them can go a long ways. When participating in sports, make sure you and your family members wear the appropriate protective equipment—mouthguards, helmets, padding. Keep chemicals and choking hazards away from small children. Remind kids not to run in the house. Slow down and pay attention to what you are doing, whether you are at home, at work, or in the car.

Additionally, practice healthy habits like proper hand washing and discuss with your family how to prevent the spread of germs.