How to Discuss Cost-Effective Health Care with Your Doctor

Blues Perspectives

| 3 min read

Man wearing a mask talks with his doctor
Most of us have no problem asking a car dealer how much a vehicle costs, or asking a server what the market price on the fancy entrée is — yet many people feel a certain level of trepidation when discussing the topic of medical costs, even though it’s an important part of a health conversation. These five tips will help guide conversations with your doctor about cost-effective health care:
  • Mention budget early. While there’s no right or wrong time to discuss costs, it’s usually helpful for both you and your doctor if you bring up the subject early during your appointment. This can help steer the doctor’s care suggestions, and ensures you have enough time during the visit to discuss care options with cost in mind.
  • Find creative ways to balance budget and health. It’s never advised to go without the health care you need simply to save money. Some money-saving options include deferring non-urgent medical tests until you’ve met your deductible; scheduling follow-ups further apart; communicating with your doctor via online visits or over the phone (which are often cheaper than in-office visits); or going on a payment plan. Doctors are generally willing to help you find cost-saving strategies that still take your wellness into account, so don’t be afraid to communicate openly and honestly with your doctor.
  • Always ask if a generic medication is available. Prescription costs can be some of the most onerous for patients, because insurance plans cover different types of the same drug differently. Generic drugs are listed in the lowest tier, meaning they are almost always the most cost-effective for the consumer, so remind your doctor during each visit that you prefer generics whenever possible.
  • Be a little patient (no pun intended). Doctors are not afraid to discuss costs, but sometimes they don’t know the exact prices of services. They also are not experts on the ins and outs of every insurance plan they honor. Don’t be discouraged if they refer you to their billing department, which is better versed in helping patients understand their costs. They can help walk you through your out-of-pocket costs, what’s covered and so on.
  • If you need non-emergency care, shop around for the best price. If your primary care physician is referring you to another specialist; they likely don’t know the associated cost of that specific location, specialist or medical procedure. What’s more: Sometimes the provider your PCP refers you to is not the most cost-effective option.
That’s where Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan can help. With Blue Cross Rewards as part of your plan, you can compare provider locations; control and understand your out-of-pocket costs for non-emergency care like X-rays, mammograms, CT scans, MRIs or colonoscopies; and choose cost-effective care from credentialed, in-network physicians. Plus, you can get rewarded with gift cards to your favorite retailers like Home Depot and Amazon. It’s easy for eligible plan members: Simply register for an account at, then log in and search for a reward-eligible, non-emergency health care service, designated by a green trophy icon. Select a provider location, make an appointment and receive the service, and you’ll get an e-gift card in your inbox for your selected retailer six to eight weeks later. This easy-to-access platform means you get a better understanding of what you owe (not to mention, an e-gift card!), and saves you money by helping you price-compare care that fits your budget. Remember, communication is key to ensuring you’re getting the best possible health care for your budget, so don’t be afraid to ask your doctor — and your health insurer provider — about your options. Learn more about how the Blue Cross Rewards program can save you money:
Photo credit: Getty Images
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association