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Americans are struggling to pay medical bills and are accumulating medical debt at an increasing rate. The government projects that in less than a decade, Americans will spend 20% of their annual income on health care. While this year’s Presidential candidates have frequently debated on how they’re planning to fix our broken health care system, the odds of any real change happening are slim to none. In the meantime, we are left to figure out how to reduce medical costs while maintaining medical quality. Surprisingly, there are quite a few things that we can do to slash these costs.

#1: Get Prescription drugs at a big discount – both Walmart and Target have expanded their drug discount programs. You can now get a 90-day supply of many medications for just $10, and over-the-counter medications for $4. You should also check with your supermarket’s pharmacy, because many stores are jumping into the drug discount fray to compete for business.

#2: Ask for free samples – doctors’ offices are usually filled with free samples from pharmaceutical companies and they will gladly hand them over if you just ask. Not only will this save you money, it will also be a great way to try out a medication before you spend money on having a whole prescription filled.

#3: Use generic drugs – you can save as much as 52% by using generic drug over a brand name. These drugs might look different because of certain inactive ingredients, such as colors and flavorings, but these ingredients do not affect the performance or safety of the generic drug. Keep in mind that the FDA makes it tough to become a generic drug in American, so why pay more for a brand name one?

#4: Get free care at clinical trials – although there is no guarantee that the experimental treatment will work for you, it can certainly save you a ton of money because most costs are taken care of – and you might even get paid to participate.

#5: Buy medical equipment and supplies yourself – you might come in need of a medical device or equipment, like crutches or a foot brace. If your insurance covers 100% of the expense, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if it’s not covered, you can save up to 25% or more buying these products through a local medical equipment dealer or online.

Always be an advocate for yourself or have someone else, ask questions and use the internet as a source for checking what your doctors and pharmacists are prescribing, dispensing and recommending.

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