Okay, we cheated on this one, big time.
But I'll explain how my family cut it's medical bills in half. Actually, we probably pay a quarter or less for medical bills than we used to pay.
It's simple - move to Canada.
I know, I know, that's not very simple. I do know - I did it and went through the hell that is immigration. It's not simple at all. First you have to look long and hard for a Canadian to marry. A Canadian that isn't marrying you for the coveted American green card. You have to marry a Canadian that (secretly) wants to go back to Canada and take you with him. (But that's another story....)
How does health care work up here?
Basically, you pay a monthly fee based on your income. You might not pay anything, or you might pay a few hundred a month. Currently, for six of us, our monthly fee is $106.00.
What do you get for that?
All doctor's visits are free. Most emergency services, operations, etc. are free. I think you pay for the ambulance and you might have to pay for some services, but so far I never have had to do that.
You do pay for prescriptions, eye care and dental bills. Some employers have plans for these like the ones you get in the US.
What all this means for my family is that I take the kids in when they're sick instead of waiting for it to get really serious. I never drive to the emergency room wondering if I'm about to go bankrupt. Things were a lot different for me when I lived in the United States.
Once, when the kids were little my son had a febrile seizure - a seizure brought on by a high fever. He was raced to the hospital by ambulance where he had a series of tests involving all sorts of expensive, high-tech equipment. The good news was that he was fine. The bad news came in the mail a couple of weeks later - all told, the bill was over $20,000. It literally brought me to my knees.
So what's the answer if you can't move to Canada? Start by doing your research. Make sure you know all your options for medical care. And purchase medical insurance based on the likelihood of using it. A single guy needs less insurance than a family with small children does. Having to foot the bill for a single large medical procedure can wipe out any savings you accrue from not purchasing insurance at all.
Use preventive care whenever possible. You know this stuff, right? Don't drink excessively. Stop smoking. Exercise. REST. When you're sick, stay home in bed until you're better. Consider getting a flu shot.
Look at all your medical bills and question them. Mistakes are made all the time. If you or someone in your family has an ongoing condition, think of this as a part-time job. The more visits you are billed for, the greater the likelihood of errors.
Don't be afraid to use generic drugs and to call around to pharmacies to check their prices. Why not? You compare costs for other things?
And if you are thinking of moving, switching jobs, and so on, take the cost of medical care into account. Some states have better plans than others if your employer doesn't offer you a plan. Some states have better COBRA policies, too. It's worth taking into account.
How am I going to cut my medical bills in half? Hmmm - here in Canada my main choice would be to stop earning so much money. That doesn't sound so great. So I guess my plan is simply to keep my family as healthy as possible so that we don't have to pay extra bills.