15 Ways to Cut Your Medical Bills

These days, we're all feeling squeezed when it comes to health costs - and we're all looking for ways to save. Here are 15 cost-cutters that can put a big chunk of that money back in your wallet.

1. Ask for a freebie. If you're starting a new drug regimen, see if your doctor can give you a sample or a starter kit. That way, you can check whether the medication works for you before you invest in a month's supply. Visit the Good Deals blog to find other money saving deals.

2. Don't bypass your doc. Now that many health plans don't require a referral to see a specialist, it's tempting to skip the primary-care physician and go right to the dermatologist for a rash or to the orthopedist for a sprained ankle. But you may not need the specialist - or his higher co-pay. (Here is helpful advice on finding the right doctor.)

3. Focus on the Web. A recent eBay search turned up 2,950 pairs of eyeglass frames, including discounts on luxury brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci. Try on frames at an optician's first, then look for the same or similar ones to buy online. You can also find reading glasses and contact lenses online. Another advantage of the web is researching symptoms. Check out this article about health websites you can trust for more info.

4. Shape up. The simplest way to save money on health care is to stay well. Women who are extremely overweight have annual medical costs that are nearly 70 percent higher than normal-weight women, a study in the American Journal of Health Promotion found. Working out doesn't have to mean high gym fees. Find a home workout that fits your needs.

5. Get the best insurance deal. When it comes time to renew their health coverage, some 60 percent of employees just take the company's default plan or check the "same as last year" box, reports Hewitt Associates. That can be a costly mistake. Research all the plans available for your family and pick the one with the most savings. (Also, see how to save on all your insurance bills.)

6. Visit your drugstore's clinic. If you'd have to pay full freight for a doctor's appointment, or it's a weekend and using an ER would set you back a chunk per your insurance plan, in-store health centers can be a bargain. Located in many branches of CVS, Target, Wal-Mart, and other retailers, these clinics treat minor wounds and other routine problems. (Here learn the best ways to handle medical emergencies.)

7. Pay up front. Some doctors are willing to provide a discount to patients who can fork over the whole fee at the time of treatment, research from Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute found. Even hospitals may negotiate a lower rate for uninsured patients who pay right away. Short on cash? Check out these 3 simple ways to get cash fast.

Click here to find out 8 other ways to cut heath care costs.

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.