Money Saving Tips on Rising Health Care Costs

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Health care costs are expected to rise seven percent in the New Year -- higher than the rate of inflation.

Premiums for health insurance aren't expected to grow quite that much, but you will likely be charged higher co-pays and deductibles.

There are ways to save. Let's say your doctor says you need a lab test or x-ray. He suggests you go to a certain hospital or imaging center. You don't always have to go where the doctor refers you. The form he gives you ordering the test can be used anywhere. So call a couple of places. See what they charge. You may find hundreds of dollars' difference in price.

It's the same with surgery. The surgeon you're referred to may operate at a hospital and an outpatient facility. One may be a lot less expensive than the other. Your insurance company can help you compare costs. Many have online tools that show you the exact charges for the same procedure at different places. The tools show what the insurer has to pay and what you'll have to pay out-of-pocket.

If you need after-hours care, avoid the emergency room unless you have an emergency. Go to urgent care clinics. You can easily save a hundred dollars just in your out-of-pocket costs. But make sure the urgent care clinic is part of your insurer's network.

Get those recommended screenings. Under the health care law, insurers are required to cover things like breast cancer and colon cancer screenings without charging deductibles or co-pays. Those tests could save you a lot in the long run by detecting a problem in the early stages when it's much easier to treat.

Flu shots and other routine vaccines must also be covered. You can find out more about covered preventive services at healthcare.gov

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