What’s the No. 1 financial concern of most Americans? It’s the high cost of healthcare. Here are six ways to lower those costs and make them more manageable.

If I asked you to name a financial concern that worries you the most, what would it be? If you’re like many Americans, you’d say it’s not being able to pay medical bills if you became seriously ill. That’s according to a 2016 Gallup poll.1 It shows that people are worried and looking for ways to lower the high cost of healthcare.

The poll also reports that nearly half of Americans are worried about not their inability to pay for normal healthcare costs. Those are troubling statistics that may attribute to the lack of confidence in the U.S. economy.

Top Financial Burden

Healthcare costs in the United States are the most worrisome economic issue for Americans, the survey found.

“Healthcare costs impact every individual, which makes it a huge concern for the country as a whole,” said Kristen Bonner. Bonner is the research lead for GOBankingRates’ Financial Burdens Survey.2

In fact, The New York Times called America “the most expensive place in the world to get sick” in 2016.

6 Steps to Saving Money3

Here are six things you can do now to lower your healthcare costs without sacrificing quality:

1.  Choose providers in your network. It’s always less expensive to choose a provider, lab, specialist, surgery center, or other facility that’s in your plan’s network. These in-network providers have already agreed to a rate they’ll accept from your healthcare plan. If you choose an out-of-network provider, you’ll need to pay the difference between what your insurance company will pay and what the provider charges. That difference can be substantial.

A man handing a prescription to a pharmacists

2.  Ask for generic drugs whenever possible. A generic drug is equivalent to a brand-name drug in dosage, strength, quality, performance, and intended use. A generic drug’s price is less expensive. The coinsurance price will likely be less expensive, too.

3.  Skip the Emergency Room visit if it’s not an emergency. A visit to the Emergency room can be expensive. This is especially true if your insurance company doesn’t agree the event was an emergency. If your doctor’s office isn’t open, try a convenience care clinic, like one at Walgreens or CVS. Another option is an urgent care facility. Both can be less expensive than the ER. Make sure you check to ensure they’re in your network first!

4.  Use a mail-order drug program. Mail-order pharmacies can fill a three-month supply of your prescription for the same price as a one-month supply purchased locally. You can also have refills automatically mailed to your home, so you never run out of your medication. How convenient! 

5.  Use free preventative screenings. Many insurance plans must provide preventive care screenings without requiring you to meet your deductible or charging you a co-pay. This may include preventative services, like:

  • Blood-pressure screening
  • Diabetes and cholesterol tests
  • Mammograms and colonoscopies
  • Flu shots and routine vaccines
  • Well-baby and well-child visits, and more

Regular screenings and early detection are keys to preventing and treating many serious illnesses. Be sure you take advantage of them.

A man is getting an annual check up at the doctors office.

6.  Contribute to your Flexible Spending Account. The money you contribute to your flexible spending account avoids federal and Social Security taxes. In most cases, it’s not subject to state and local income taxes. You save money by using these tax-free funds to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses throughout the year. It’s a valuable benefit especially for those who carry higher deductibles and share in the cost of the plan premium.

1 Justin McCarthy. “Americans’ Financial Worries Edge Up in 2016.” Gallup >> Economy. Apr. 28, 2016. http://www.gallup.com/poll/191174/americans-financial-worries-edge-2016.aspx

2 Elyssa Kirkham. “Healthcare Costs Are America’s No. 1 Financial Burden, Survey Finds.” Apr. 25, 2016. https://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/healthcare-costs-americas-financial-burden-survey-finds/

3 Kimberly Lankford. “30 Ways to Cut Health Care Costs.” Kiplinger.com >> Health Care & Insurance. Mar. 31, 2011. http://www.kiplinger.com/article/spending/T027-C000-S002-30-ways-to-cut-health-care-costs.html