May 2009

Saving $$$ on Healthcare

In today’s economy, many people are looking for ways to cut expenses. Healthcare may not seem like a candidate for cost savings, but there may be ways you can keep more money in your pocket.


Consider over-the-counter products

More than 700 medications, once available only by prescription, now can be bought at retail,* including allergy and stomach-disorder drugs such as Zyrtec, Prilosec OTC and Omeprazole. If an over-the-counter drug works for you, you save on its cost and the cost of a doctor’s visit to get a prescription. And OTC drugs may be covered by your Healthcare Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account.

Use generics

Generic drugs typically cost much less than their brand-name equivalents. Under TVA’s medical plans, you pay less for a generic than a brand. For instance, by switching from Zocor to Simvastatin, you could possibly save more than $100 a month. Talk to your doctor to see if a generic is right for you, and use the My Rx Choices tool at to see your savings.

Use mail order

A three-month supply of your medication delivered to your home costs only as much as a two-month prescription. If you spend $50 a month on prescriptions, you could have an extra $200 at the end of the year. Find out more on the Medco Web site at or by calling Medco at 1-800-818-0890.

Choose the right place for your care

If you go to a hospital emergency room for treatment when you are not experiencing a true medical emergency, you will pay a lot more and spend more time there than if you choose a more appropriate healthcare provider. A basic ER visit typically costs about $450, while an urgent-care clinic visit may cost $100 on average.** If you are unsure where to go for treatment, call the 24/7 Nurse Line at 1-888-227-6859 for advice.

Have a primary-care physician

Using a primary-care doctor who knows your medical history and conditions may help you avoid duplication of treatments and overtesting. And don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions, such as why an expensive MRI test is being ordered instead of an X-ray.

Review your medical bills

Make sure you are charged only for services you received.

Be an informed consumer

Drug manufacturers spend billions of dollars each year to make sure you see their ads about new drugs, and those costs get passed on to you in higher drug prices. Base your drug choice on its effectiveness to treat your condition. It may be that an older, lower-cost drug works best for you.

Shop around

The same drug at one pharmacy may cost less at another pharmacy, even within the same retail chain. You may save money by just making a few phone calls.


Ask your doctor if he or she has samples of the drug being prescribed for you. Drug companies give doctors samples of many medicines free of charge. If you’re trying a new drug, a sample will let you see if the drug works before you spend money.

A healthcare sale

Some providers, such as an orthodontist, offer a discount on the cost of the service if you pay the full amount up front. Also, look carefully at your healthcare bill. It may offer a discount if you pay the entire balance instead of a partial payment.


The BluePerks discount program is available to members of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and features savings of up to 50 percent on health-related products and elective services, such as acupuncture, spa services and vitamins. Visit for details.