How to Save Money on a Deductible

A deductible is how much you have to pay on your own for healthcare before your health plan kicks in and starts paying its share. You may have chosen a plan with a high deductible to save money on the monthly premium. But you also can save money while you’re paying off your deductible. Here’s how.

An Ounce of Prevention
The law requires most health plans to pay for certain preventive health services, regardless of whether you’ve met the deductible or not. Preventive health services (which include immunizations and screenings) are designed to help keep you from getting sick in the future. Here’s a list of them.

Check What Your Plan Will Cover
Some plans cover services that come with a copay (a fixed amount you have to pay when you receive a medical service) even if your deductible hasn’t been met. Some plans cover prescription drugs even before you’ve met your deductible. Check your plan documents or call a plan representative to find out what, if anything, your plan covers before your deductible is met.

Use Providers in Your Network
Doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers in your health plan’s network have agreed to accept contracted rates for their services. Those rates are almost always lower than the rates you’d have to pay an out-of-network provider. When paying off your deductible, stick with in-network providers as much as possible. Some plans have separate deductibles for in-network and out-of-network care, and the in-network deductible is typically lower.

If You Have to Go Out of Network, Shop Around
If, for some reason you need to go out of network, shop around for the best price. If you compare two healthcare providers just a few miles apart, you might see that one charges a higher price than another. You can use FAIR Health’s lookup tools for medical and dental expenses to learn what a procedure usually costs in your area. You may be able to use that information to negotiate your bill with your provider.

Does It Have to Be Done in a Hospital?
Another money-saving tip: Hospitals usually charge more for items like walk-in surgery, lab tests, X-rays, CT scans and colonoscopies. So unless you need to stay in a hospital overnight, it’s typically cheaper to have these procedures done outside of a hospital. If you do need a hospital stay, use our Hospital Stay Cost Lookup Tool to estimate what your costs will be (see Estimating Costs for a Hospital Stay in this issue).

Save Money on Prescriptions
Economize on prescription drugs. You can buy some drugs over the counter more cheaply than by prescription. These include medications for seasonal allergies, insomnia, joint pain and migraine headaches. Some warehouse clubs offer generic drugs at prices that may be less than your prescription copay.

A Flexible Spending Plan
You can have pre-tax money deducted from your salary to fund a flexible spending plan, which you can use to pay for medical expenses. Because the money isn’t taxed, this is a way of stretching your healthcare dollars—and covering some of your deductible expenses.