Big deductibles. Higher co-pays. Skyrocketing premiums. Whether you get your insurance through work, buy it yourself, or don't have insurance at all, we're all paying more for our medical care these days.

Faced with steeper costs, some people are skipping treatments or postponing doctor visits. Don't let the high cost of medical care hurt your health. Here are nine ways to save money and stay healthy.

1. Shop Your Doctors and Treatments

Because healthcare costs have risen, most of us are paying higher premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. But only 3 percent of us have tried to trim what we contribute out of pocket by comparison shopping our healthcare—i.e., finding out in advance what different doctors charge for, say, an MRI or knee replacement surgery. One reason: Consumers don’t know that doctors’ fee information is easy to find using the “cost-estimator” tools on most health insurance websites. You can also use third-party sites, such as,,, and Consumer Reports analyzed tools offered by major insurance companies as well as eight standalone sites based on qualities such as ease of use, functionality, and reliability. See the ratings here.

2. Know What’s Free

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, nearly all of us who have insurance are entitled to certain preventive services free of charge, as long as we stay in our insurance network. What you can get for no cost may surprise you: blood pressure testing, breast-feeding support, colonoscopies, depression screening, nutrition counseling, and vaccinations. Check out the full list of eligible services at

3. Take Advantage of Drugstore Discounts

Stores such as Kmart, Sam’s Club, and Walmart offer hundreds of common generic drugs at very low prices—sometimes as low as $4 to $10—which could be less than your insurance co-pay. Ask the pharmacist whether the store has a discount program. Note: Money spent on meds purchased using these discount programs doesn’t go toward your insurance deductible.

Read our special report, "To Get the Lowest Drug Prices It Pays to Shop Around." 

4. Beware of Pricey Combo Drugs

When the patent on a drug nears its end, some manufacturers reformulate the medication into something “new” they can price higher than the generic equivalent. For example, the expensive migraine drug Treximet is actually a combination of two older, low-cost generic drugs: sumatriptan and naproxen. Nine tablets of 85-500 mg Treximet cost $695 at But the same website offers nine 100 mg tablets of sumatriptan for less than $16 and nine 500 mg naproxen tablets for about $5. That’s a savings of $674. 

Get more expert advice from Consumer Reports on how to pay less for practically anything.

5. Ask Your Doctor: 'How Much Does This Drug Cost?'

A CR poll of 200 doctors in 2016 found that they generally don’t discuss the cost of a drug with their patients. But if price is an obstacle for you and you let your doctor know that, he or she can look up the drug’s cost and, if necessary, help you find a more affordable alternative, such as the medication’s generic equivalent. 

6. Don’t Assume Using Your Insurance at the Pharmacy Is the Cheapest

A survey of pharmacists by the National Community Pharmacists Association found that many knew of instances of “clawbacks”—when the price your insurer makes the pharmacy charge you is more than the pharmacy’s normal retail price. Think your pharmacist will flag that when it happens? Not necessarily. Some pharmacists can tell you about lower prices only if you ask first.

7. Ask Your Doctor Whether You Can Stop Taking Any of Your Meds

A 2017 CR national survey shows that when patients asked their healthcare providers whether they can stop taking one or more of their prescription medications, in 71 percent of the cases the doctor eliminated at least one drug. 

8. Leverage Tax Breaks

Another way to ease the pain of high out-of-pocket medical costs is to put money into a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA). Both allow you to set aside tax-free dollars to cover costs that your insurance doesn’t. Note that FSAs are offered only if you have employer-based insurance, and HSAs are available only to those in a high-deductible health insurance plan. It’s smart to contribute the maximum if you can afford it: for FSAs, up to $2,650 a year; for HSAs, up to $3,450 annually for individuals and $6,900 for families.

9. Get Care on the Calendar

If you have health insurance, keep track of your spending against your annual deductible, which resets every year. If you expect you’ll need an expensive procedure that will get you close to or over your deductible, schedule it early in the year if you can. That way, if you need more care later in the year, your insurance will kick in. And don’t put off making doctor appointments. Make sure your physician has room in his or her schedule before Jan. 1, when your deductible resets.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.