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How to reduce your healthcare costs

Nalinakanthi V | Updated on June 16, 2012 Published on June 16, 2012

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Drugtab

Plenty of choice is available for people from different economic segments as the Indian pharma market is fragmented and competitive.



Thanks to lifestyle changes and lack of awareness, Indians have become more susceptible to diseases such as heart attacks and diabetes.

With about 6 per cent of the population suffering from diabetes, India is now the diabetes capital of the world.

Given the meagre social spending on healthcare and paltry penetration of health insurance schemes, the medical expenses of most of the population are met out of pocket. The result, an average household spends 10-15 per cent of its disposable income to meet healthcare needs.

In this context, let us look at three ways by which one can save on healthcare costs.

medical bills

When it comes to medication, most of us tend to stick to brands that the doctor prescribes or the ones we have been using for years. But if affordability is an issue, it may not hurt to look for replacements, after consulting the doctor, of course.

The Indian pharmaceutical market is highly fragmented and competitive. This means plenty of choices for patients in different economic segments. For instance, in some molecules such as Ofloxacin, there are as many as 436 brands priced at various levels.

The most expensive brand costs Rs 100 for a strip of 10 tablets, while the cheapest brand is available for just Rs 3.2 for a strip.

Typically, patients cut medical expenses by not complying with the dosage prescribed by the doctor.

For instance, if a patient who is required to consume an antibiotic pill 3 times a day for 5 days finds the prescribed brand expensive, he may consume medicines only for 2-3 days and stop once the symptoms wane.

This can have a serious consequence on his health. Switching brands based on the pharmacist's recommendation may be a risky proposition.

This is because there might be significant variation in the quality and efficacy of specific branded drugs.

In such situations, one can check with their doctor regarding possible substitution of an expensive prescribed brand with a cheaper brand.

“Substitution in consultation with the doctor will help patients save money as well as improve dosage compliance and cure rates,” suggests Dr Rajasekaran, a senior physician.

Web-based resources may help you find out what other options are available. UBM Medica, which is a part of United Business Media Plc, an international media and business information company that provides up-to-date information on drug prices across various geographies.

The price data can be accessed through their Web site http://www.mims.com/. Alternatively their publication on drug prices is available at leading book stores.

However, given that this concerns your health and there can be minute differences between brands in terms of efficacy, don't substitute any medication without consulting your physician.

Consultation

For smaller ailments, consider consulting your doctor at his private clinic.

Typically, consulting a doctor at a large corporate hospital will cost you more than meeting him at his private clinic.

The hospital could charge you additionally for the infrastructure costs, besides adding a profit margin.

Hence, barring an emergency, it is prudent to consult him at his private clinic. Why pay more for the same service?

Take a second opinion before deciding on a surgical procedure

One healthcare cost that can really hit you hard is the cost of surgery. You need to shell out money not only for the procedure but also for inpatient treatment.

Therefore, take a second opinion from another specialist before deciding on a surgical procedure. By doing this one can ensure that the procedure is indeed inevitable.

Also, many doctors share relationship with more than one hospital and use their own facilities too for performing such procedures.

Hence, comparison of the cost of service offered by hospitals with similar quality standards will help patients get good service at affordable cost.

>Nalinakanthi.venkataraman@thehindu.co.in

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Published on June 16, 2012
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