The struggling economy has most of us looking to tighten our budgets. Health care can be one of the biggest drains on our monthly money flow but there are some fixes that can stop you from wasting your hard earned money. With a little bit of creativity and a lot of communication with your health care provider you can get the skinny family budget you always dreamed of.

Be Picky About your Practitioner – Make sure your practitioner is on the list of in-network docs for your insurance provider. Many times we can get caught off guard by unnecessary costs simply because the doctor is out of network and these costs can at times be significant. Many practitioners work at multiple locations so check to see if the fees are lower at one of their more busy locations such as a hospital or clinic instead of relying solely on their private practice. When referred for special procedures, lab work or x-rays, you are not required to go to the specific location directed. There are many private companies that offer the same service at a much lower cost, just make sure you research thoroughly before deciding. Finally, compare your insurance options of practioners with your spouse if you both have insurance options available through your employer. Good research is key to saving big but can also take some time and patience.

Do your Drug Research – Any time you are prescribed a medication ask your doctor or pharmacist if a generic brand is available. It is often the same product but at a much lower cost.  You can also verify dosage options with your doctor such as taking a bigger dose only once a day instead of a small dose multiple times a day. The larger dosage pill can be much cheaper so there is also the possibility of splitting a big pill into smaller doses if allowed. Take control of your health by attempting free natural alternatives, with the advice of your doctor, and avoid the cost of pills altogether.

Take Advantage of Freebies – There are many programs through your insurance that are free to you if you simply call and register for them. These programs can teach you how to manage your diet, control your symptoms for certain illnesses, and even how to save money on your own health care. Your community may also offer some of these opportunities through local hospitals, churches, or community centers. The tips that you learn at these classes can save you big bucks in the long run so check with your provider.

Be your own Advocate – No one is going to care about how much money you waste except for you so pay attention and speak up about the costs you are incurring. Read your bills completely and ask any questions about how certain costs were added in with the billing department. Many people waste a great deal of money by simply paying all the fees without ever understanding what they paid for. Have an open dialogue with the billing department and be proactive with them if possible. Some facilities or practitioners offer to negotiate prices, price match, or other options for saving a few dollars. Ask as many questions as you can and don’t be afraid to ask for a discount; the worst they can say is no.

Most Importantly, Be Healthy! – You can avoid unnecessary health care costs by maintaining a healthy diet and routinely exercising. You want to make sure you like your doctor but you shouldn’t be seeing them so often that you are up to date on what their children are doing each month. Your doctor will miss you but will love your healthy outlook on life!