Life with MS

Bringing Down Your Healthcare Costs

By Michelle Katz
Check your status – You’ve heard of a credit check, but did you know you also can see what information insurance companies have about your pre-existing conditions? It’s not always accurate and that can cost you money.
If you’ve applied for individual health insurance, life, or disability or long-term care insurance in the past seven years, your information may be on file with the MIB Group, an insurance industry antifraud organization. An annual check is free at
Shop around –  Consider all your options and evaluate your health plan every year. Premiums are a factor, but pay particular attention to deductibles and how prescription drugs are handled. Ask other people with MS how their policy works, and make sure your neurologist is covered under the plan you choose. 
Break out the magnifying glass – Watch out for billing mistakes if you are hospitalized. As many as 80 percent of hospital bills contain errors. Keep a log of the tests and medications you receive and check it against your medical file. If you find a problem, ask for a corrected bill through a certified letter. Make sure to send a copy of the documents to your insurance company. 
Deduct your co-pays – Medical bills that exceed 7.5 percent of your gross income are a tax write-off. The list of deductions that can be taken for health-related expenses is long and includes medical insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Also on the list are some things you might not expect, like nontraditional forms of medicine, such as visits to the chiropractor, assistive devices, home modifications, and even medical conference fees, so long as they relate to a chronic illness. Visit to see if your expenses qualify.
Consider your total costs – Disease-modifying treatments for MS are expensive, but you can cut down on your total costs by saving money on other prescriptions. Look at what other drugs can be switched for a generic, or found for less at a discount store pharmacy or online. Wal-Mart, for example, has a $4 prescription program with more than 350 generic drugs and upward of 1,000 over-the-counter medications.
Michelle Katz is a healthcare savings expert whose advice has been featured on “Oprah and Friends Radio,” NBC's “Today” show and “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.”
She has been a senior healthcare consultant at Arthur Andersen and consulted in the development of congressional healthcare legislation. Her books, “Healthcare for Less” and “101 Health Insurance Tips” are now available through the MSF Lending Library.

(Last reviewed 7/2009)