According to a recent survey, 40% of retirees report that their spending on healthcare has been higher than expected. With the skyrocketing costs associated with medical care, it’s not wonder that most retirees did not plan adequately. But there are actions retirees can take that can take the sting out of the healthcare bite.

 

Carefully audit each bill you receive. It is not uncommon for a provider to incorrectly code a service or for your insurance provider to deny a claim because of a technicality. If a bill is denied payment, contact the provider and ask questions. It may have only a small potential of payoff, but it’s worth the effort.

 

Before filling a prescription or making an appointment with a provider, do some comparison shopping of your own. There is a wide variance of the prices charged by pharmacies, therapists and other providers for the exact same product or service. Your insurance will typically pay only a set amount, and any overage comes out of your pocket. Shopping around may result in reduced money out of your pocket.

 

Know what is covered by your plan. Keep the summary plan description for your policy close at hand. Read about a treatment or procedure your physician is recommending and find out if it is covered by your provider. If it isn’t, ask your healthcare professional to work with you on reducing the bill for services or to only use other professionals covered by your plan.

 

Take a tax deduction when eligible. The IRS allows you to deduct medical bills in excess of 10% of your gross income. While that is a large amount, the list of qualifying expenses is long. IRS publication www.irs.gov/publications/p502 provides details.

 

Ask if a generic substitution is available. Patients can save hundreds of dollars annually by asking for a generic substitution. When you visit your healthcare provider, take along the formulary for your insurance plan and ask your provider to prescribe from the covered list if possible. Another secret that may save you money: high-dose pills are often priced the same as lower-dose pills. Ask your healthcare provider if the medication you are taking can be prescribed in a high-dose and each pill cut in half.

 

Seek assistance with drug costs. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance program offers information about discounts on more than 2500 medications. Visit www.pparx.org to see if you qualify.

 

Join a dental discount club. Some dental service providers offer membership in dental programs that are affordable and offer 20-30% discounts on dental services with plan providers. If there is a dental school in your area, consider contacting it for appointment information.

 

Watch out for pricey extras on eyeglasses. Many 2-for-1 offers carry extra fees. Most people can forego anti-reflective coating, ultrathin lenses and titanium frames. And if you need a pair of reading glasses, the ones costing $10 at your local discount retailer are fine—and fashionable too.

 

Make your home a safe place. Home accidents are a leading cause of emergency room visits for young and not-so-young alike. Place nonskid decals in bathtubs and grab bars around the perimeter. Put handrails on both sides of stairs. Use nightlights to avoid tripping. Check smoke detectors twice each year.

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