Take a look at three smart ways to lower your medical expenses. By Andrea Browne Taylor, Online Editor November 5, 2014 No matter how you get your insurance -- through your employer, from a state exchange, from an agent or directly from an insurance company -- you’re probably paying a bigger share of your health-care costs than you used to. Premiums and deductibles are on the rise, while provider networks are shrinking. See Also: SLIDE SHOW: 50 Ways to Lower Your Medical Bills Your out-of-pocket costs could increase significantly unless you learn some key strategies that will help you become a better health-care shopper. Here are three of them: Switching to generic drugs can make a huge difference in how much you spend each month on your prescriptions. Generic drugs can cost as much as 80% less than brand-name alternatives. Also, remember that some health plans no longer cover brand-name drugs. For example, a 30-day supply of Lipitor will cost you $180.75 out of pocket versus $13.92 for the generic equivalent. Advertisement The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide several kinds of preventive care at no cost to you, regardless of your deductible. Depending on your age, this rule may apply to blood-pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests, mammograms and colonoscopies, flu shots, routine vaccines, well-baby and well-child visits, and other preventive care. Asking your doctor about cheaper facilities can also help you save. Your doctor may work at several hospitals or outpatient surgery centers. While the surgeon’s charge will be the same, the hospital’s fees can vary by thousands of dollars. You can spend even less at an outpatient surgery center, even though the same doctor is performing the procedure. For example, the average cost nationwide for a common joint procedure in a hospital is $2,548 versus $959 at an outpatient surgery center. You’ll want to be sure the facility you choose is in your insurer’s network.