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 such as a mammogram or colonoscopy that checks for cancer. 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:
- The actual cost of the test
- Whether your insurance will cover the cost
- What your out-of-pocket costs will be
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?
It costs less to prevent an illness than it does to treat it. So talk to your doctor about changing some of your lifestyle habits. Wellness and lifestyle programs offer plans for eating right, exercising, losing weight, and managing your stress. If you already have a chronic condition, a program can help you manage it better.
Ask your doctor if a wellness program or lifestyle changes could help you avoid taking 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, it’s a good idea to talk about the medication and whether it’s the best choice for you.
Brand-name drugs typically cost more than generics. Even if your insurance covers your medication, your part of the cost may still be higher for a brand-name drug. In some cases, insurers offer generics without any copay because they cost much less than name brands.
You also might be able to find free or discounted prescriptions, either through a patient assistance program or from your local pharmacy. You must qualify for a patient assistance program in advance. Some national chain pharmacies provide free or low-cost prescription drugs like antibiotics or metformin.
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.