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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Cutting Health Care Costs: Doctor Visits

11 Tips on Curbing Your Personal Spending on Doctor Visits and Medical Tests

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.

8. Don't dismiss your symptoms.

Of course, you should seek immediate care for possible heart attack symptoms or stroke symptoms. Time can also count for symptoms that don't seem immediately threatening, like new breast lumps or skin changes.

"I had a patient recently who noticed a mole changing and he decided to wait until he had other things going on [to see a doctor]. It turned out to be eight months, and he had large basal cell cancer above his nose next to his eye," Goldstein says.

Goldstein also knows of an elementary school teacher who didn't seek medical care for her headaches because she didn't have health insurance. "Two weeks later, she had a ruptured brain aneurysm and died in her 40s," he says. "That's just incredibly tragic."

9. Don't go to the emergency room for problems that aren't emergencies.

Because emergency rooms are overwhelmed, you may wait hours to be seen. And if you're paying out of pocket, you could wind up with "a bill of $400-$500, which you will be responsible for," Goldstein says.

Overcrowding in emergency rooms can also make it harder to deliver emergency care when it's truly needed, he says.

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