I recently had an experience that opened my eyes to the healthcare system. I have been fortunate to have good insurance coverage for the last 30 years. I am like many others, when the cost of care doesn’t impact my pocketbook; I am not a wise a consumer as I should be.We recently have had changes in our insurance coverage, as many of you have experienced too. We have had some hefty out-of-pocket costs that has set me on a journey to be a wiser consumer.I found a report by Kiplinger “50 Ways to Cut Your Health Care Costs.” I will share a few of the tips here. I have added it as a link on the website under resources. You may explore it further. I will hit the high points. Some you will know and others I hope you will find new and useful.Stay in Your NetworkInsurers have negotiated pricing with providers. You see those prices with providers in the network. You may also have a higher co-pay or co-insurance for providers out of the network, and also a higher deductible and a higher annual limit.Save at Stand-Alone Radiology CentersThe average outpatient hospital cost for MRI and CAT scans is $1,384 to $1,668. But the average radiology center costs $445 to $725. (Information from Cigna) There can be a huge range between the highest and lowest costs in your area. [Most insurers have tools to help you compare the costs of x-rays and tests at different types of facilities in your area.] Check your insurer’s website.Ask Your Doctor about Cheaper FacilitiesMost doctors have privileges at several hospitals or outpatient surgery centers. The doctor’s costs will be the same. However, the facility fees can vary by thousands of dollars. This was an “A-Ha moment” for me. I learned after the fact, the doctor’s clinic would cost 1/3 the fees as the hospital. I think that is one reason why so many of these clinics and surgery centers are sprouting up.Avoid the Emergency Room if You CanYou may not always be able to avoid an emergency care visit. However, you may be able to go to a much less expensive urgent care center or convenience care clinic. Cigna suggests using these facilities for minor cuts, burns, sprains, joint or lower back pains, and urinary infections. The average cost nationwide for an emergency room visit is $1,553 compared with $135 for an urgent care center and $58 for a convenience care clinic.Determine ahead of time, who is in your network. You don’t want to be fumbling around when you have an emergency.Sometimes you can’t avoid a trip to the emergency room, but you can still manage the costs as best as you can. You may be in the ER, but you are still the consumer. The triage protocols have employees following certain procedures. You need to be vocal about what you believe is needed.I had something stuck in my esophagus. I called my doctor’s office to ask for assistance. I was told I needed to have my esophagus scoped; go to the ER. Because I presented with heart burn, – after all I had something stuck for hours in my throat – they followed procedures and were going to do an EKG. I was vocal and refused the procedure. Next they wanted to do some blood work. I also put a hold on that procedure. I did finally receive the services I came for and a bill of $4,500. I can’t imagine the cost if I had let them proceed unfettered.Sign Up For Special Health ProgramsYou may get extra cash or discounts on your premiums for taking a health risk assessment or participating in a tobacco-cessation program. Employers are moving towards motivating employees to be healthier. Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed employers and found more than half offer special disease management programs others may provide a work-out room within their building or pay a set amount towards a gym membership.A healthy employee is an asset to an employer. They miss fewer days and can be more productive on the job. Costs of insurance are determined by claims. Individuals behavior can make a difference in some health costs. Employers are trying to incentivize them.