What’s the best way to keep your medical bills down? Stay healthy of course!

By following a healthy diet, combined with regular exercise, good sleep, no smoking, and only drinking in moderation, you should be able to keep medical costs to a minimum.

However, with the best will in the world, we all have at least occasional encounters with medical professionals. So here are some tips to keep your costs down:

  • Get registered with your local GP, and attend the same medical centre whenever possible. This will mean that you may only pay $27 per visit, instead of as much as $50.
  • Try and visit the doctor on weekdays only during working hours, not on the weekends to keep your cost per visit down (I can hear all of you parents laughing as I write this! Yes, I know, if you have kids its Murphy’s Law that they will get sick or injured on the weekend or after clinic hours!).
  • If you have an injury (at work, home or on the sports field) make sure you make a claim on ACC.
  • If you are on a low to modest income, find out if you are eligible for a Community Services Card for reduced doctor’s fees and prescription costs. Visit www.workandincome.govt.nz to find the criteria.
  • You may also be eligible for a High User Health Card, or a Pharmaceutical Subsidy card if you have to visit the doctor frequently due to an ongoing illness. Ask your doctor if you would be eligible.
  • When you are given a prescription, have a chat to the pharmacist about the cheapest way to purchase the medicine – sometimes the subsidised prescription is cheapest, but you might find the over the counter (OTC) price is better, or a comparable generic (unbranded) drug is cheaper to buy.
  • Look into medical insurance – whilst it’s generally not economic to take cover for visits to the doctor, it may save you thousands of dollars if you need an operation or specialist treatment, and you don’t want to wait months for treatment through the public health system.

Overall, the new Primary Health Organisation (PHO) funding system is working well to help Kiwis afford medical treatment. Under 6s should be free in most places, and the average cost of an adult visit across New Zealand has been almost halved to $27. If you want to find the cheapest doctors fees in your region, visit your local District Health Board (DHB) website, and search by “practice fees”. You’ll be amazed at the price variations!

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