You aren't just a patient when you visit your doctor. You're also a consumer who's about to spend good money. Your doctor might prescribe medical tests, procedures, or medications that could cost a lot.
Ask these five questions. They might help you save some money.
1. Why Do I Need This Test?
Whether you're getting an annual checkup or are at the doctor's office because you're ill, your doctor might prescribe a test or procedure.
It could be a screening test (like a mammogram or colonoscopy), which check for hidden medical problems. Or it could be a blood test, X-ray, ultrasound, or other medical test to help figure out what's making you sick.
Either way, don't be shy -- ask questions about tests your doctor orders so that you fully understand your care.
Your questions should cover:
- The purpose of the test and why you need it
- How the test will be done
- What you should do to get ready
- Whether there are any dangers or side effects
- How you'll find out the results
Ask follow-up questions if you don't understand the answers.
2. How Much Will This Test or Procedure Cost?
Once you know what your doctor plans to do, ask how much it will cost. Find out:
Your doctor’s staff should be able to help answer these questions. If not, call your insurance company.
3. Is This Test or Procedure the Best Choice?
Doctors may have more than one test or procedure to choose from. Ask your doctor to talk about the pros and cons of each before deciding what's best for you.
4. Are There Wellness or Lifestyle Programs Available?
Because it costs less to prevent an illness than it does to treat it, think about changing some of your lifestyle habits. Wellness and lifestyle programs offer plans for eating right, exercise, and managing your stress. If you already have a chronic condition, they can help you better manage it.
Ask your doctor about wellness programs you could join and whether you could try lifestyle changes before settling on a medication. Also, check with your insurance company and your employer about lifestyle programs they offer.
5. Is There a Less Expensive Brand or a Generic Version of Prescription Medications?
If your doctor writes you a prescription, you don’t always have to get exactly what he specifies.
Brand-name drugs can cost a lot more than generic ones. Even if your insurance covers your medication, you'll have a higher copay for a brand-name drug than for a generic. Many insurers offer generics without any copay because they cost so much less than name brands.
There also might be brand-name medications that cost less than your doctor's first choice. Ask your doctor if there are drawbacks to taking these other medications, and weigh the pros and cons before deciding.