4. Do maintain a medical "home."
That's your go-to place for your medical care and medical records.
A medical home isn't just convenient, says Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH, who is professor of family medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. He says that by working with providers who know you, you may be able to avoid unnecessary medical tests, which means more savings.
Getting people into a medical home "even in the face of these economic times saves so much money and resources, and it's good medicine," Goldstein says.
5. Do find out about local and state health resources.
Look into community health centers (which typically charge fees on a sliding scale), free clinics, and local or state programs for children.
Goldstein says at one of the large community centers in his area, the minimum payment is $20, which he says is far less than the $110 at an urgent care center or $120 at most doctor's offices.
If you have children and meet certain income standards, check with your state or local health department about insurance, pediatrician Andrew Racine, MD, PhD, tells WebMD.
"The first thing that I would advise people to do is to investigate what they may be eligible for, in terms of coverage, that they may not know about. ...There are many, many families eligible to be on that program who are not enrolled," says Racine, who directs the general pediatrics division at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, N.Y
6. Do pace your medical appointments.
If you see more than one doctor per year and you don't want a slew of medical bills all at once, Ballantyne suggests spreading your appointments throughout the year instead of clustering them together.
You may also be able to double up some appointments. "Having a single physician coordinating the care is going to be more cost-effective than having two or three physicians," Goldstein says.
For instance, "a woman going to an ob-gyn for a Pap smear and then going to a family doctor for monitoring her cholesterol and blood pressure -- that's just going to be twice the expense, and unnecessary," he says.
7. Do consider calling your doctor to see if you really need to come in.
"Contact your doctor if you have questions about whether or not you need to come in," Goldstein says.
But because it's just a phone call, your doctor may not feel comfortable giving you advice without seeing you.
"Most physicians are going to say if it's going to take them more than a few minutes of their time and/or they have any perception that the issue could be serious, they're going to say -- rightly so -- that the patient should come in," Goldstein says.