Richard Stones

There ís no denying that health care costs are out of control. A visit to your family physician, with or without insurance, may have you walking away feeling more ill than when you arrived. Families everywhere have to ration their health care as they struggle to pay rising bills on fixed incomes. So what ís a person to do?

Here are some things you can do to help reduce your health care costs.

1. Eat Healthy

As the old saying goes; an apple a day keeps the doctor away. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than $100 billion are spent each year on obesity-related health problems just in the United States. According to recent studies, nearly one in three adults is struggling with obesity.

Obesity is directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Digestive disorders ranging from constipation to colon cancer account for more than 30 million doctor visits per year, with diet being a contributing factor.

Statistically, the choice you make to eat a fat-filled burger each day versus a baked chicken and fresh greens salad can make the difference in the amount of medical care you need each year and the amount of suffering you may have to endure for treatment of a disease.

2. Exercise Regularly

With proper nutrition and regular exercise, you can reduce the costs of health insurance premiums, the amount you spend on medicines and the number of co-pays for doctor visits.

Fewer insurance claims can often times lower your premiums. Fewer bouts of cold and flu, lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure require you to buy less medicine. Less long-term abuse of your body, such as eating a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol and living a sedentary lifestyle, will result in fewer medical treatments and expenses.

Check with your doctor about specific exercises and diet regiments you can follow to combat diseases and conditions such as osteoporosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

3. Use Your Network

If your medical facility has a network of doctors, try to stay within that network when seeing someone other than your regular physician. The fee for using in-network facilities is typically lower than visiting clinics outside of the network.

Ask your physician if your network has an online service where you can ask questions without having to go physically see your Doctor. Many networks have a group of physicians or nurses that can answer general health questions. In addition, your network may have online material you can read through that will answer your questions without speaking to an individual.

4. Lower Stress

While you may not be able to eliminate it, you can certainly lower your stress levels. Stress is responsible for a number of health problems including back pain, toothache, insomnia and more. Eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of rest are simple ways to lower stress. Taking a walk, attending a Yoga class or just meditating a few minutes each day will help calm your thoughts and reduce stress.

5. Stop Smoking

In addition to being bad for your health, smoking instantly tells insurance companies that your health may be at risk. This means you pay more for health coverage and in some cases may not get as good of coverage as you would if you were a non-smoker.

6. Get a Flu Shot

If you are at risk for getting the flu because of your age or profession, get a flu shot. You can typically get an annual flu shot for less than $30. That is cheap compared to catching the flu which can cost you lost days of work, a trip to the doctor and in some cases a stay in the hospital if it turns into a more serious problem.

7. Avoid Emergency Rooms

Unless it’s truly an emergency, don’t go to the emergency room. Not only are the waiting rooms typically overflowing with illnesses you might catch, but ER visits are the most expensive way to get medical treatment. Before you visit the ER, call your regular doctor or the emergency number for your medical network to see if they can offer assistance. If they are unable to help, ask if they can recommend a walk-in clinic that you can visit.

8. Monitor Your Health Bills

People aren’t perfect and neither are computerized systems. Check your health care bills and contact your doctor or insurance company if you see any discrepancies or are unsure about a charge.