Let’s face it: The economy is in the tank, jobs are scarce and many people are struggling just to pay their mortgage and grocery bills.

Combine these burdens with the very real need to pay for health care, and the crisis can seem overwhelming.

After all, if you don’t feel well, how are you supposed to function? And it’s not as if health insurance companies are becoming any friendlier.

But there are steps consumers can take to ease the burden, said Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu, CEO of Vital Spring and author of “Get Off the Dime: The Secret of Changing Who Pays for Your Health Care.”

1. Buy Generic

“Generic drugs are basically the same as brand-name,” Potarazu said. “If you survey 10 physicians, you might find two to three that will say in certain classes the brand-name works more effectively. But, for the most part, generic is just as effective.”

Generic drugs use the same active ingredients as the brand-name drugs, but they don’t have to pay for the advertising costs that are incurred by brand-name drugs.

2. Order Rx Through Mail

For consumers who take medications on an ongoing basis, Potarazu suggests ordering prescriptions through a mail order option.

“You can buy in bulk,” he said. “This may be cheaper than your neighborhood pharmacy.

3. Split the Pills

If your co-payment is the same no matter the dosage, an effective way of saving money is to have your doctor write out a prescription for double the medicine’s strength, and then when you get home, cut the pills in half.

“This is an excellent idea,” Potarazu said.

Buy a pill cutter at your local pharmacy to ensure you are cutting the pill exactly down the middle and getting the proper dosage. (This technique cannot be done with capsules).

4. Ask for Samples and Coupons

Your physician often receives drug samples from pharmaceutical representatives, so if he or she writes you a new prescription and you are looking to save money; Potarazu said you should not be afraid to ask for a free sample.

Also, physicians may have promotional coupons, which can save you money off the cost of your prescription.

5. Get to Know Your Insurance Plan

If your medicines are not covered under your insurance’s formulary plan, they will definitely be more expensive, Potarazu said.

A formulary implies those medicines, which are covered by a prescription plan (basically what the company is willing to cover).

Potarazu suggested looking at your insurance company’s Web site, or speaking with your pharmacist. If the medicine is not covered, go back to your doctor and ask if there is a drug that is equivalent to the one not covered.

6. Don’t Stop

Many people think they can save money by simply not filling their prescriptions.

Potarazu said while this may save you money in the short-term, it will cost you more in the long-term.

Not taking your medication can lead to more health problems, more doctor visits and possibly even hospitalizations.

7. Talk to Your Employer

Many employers offer free or low-cost health care benefits that employees aren’t even aware of, Potarazu said.

Know what these benefits are, he said, and take advantage of them. Perhaps the employer is offering free flu shots, or a program to help employees quit smoking or lose weight.

Some employers have clinics on site with doctors or nurse practitioners who can screen for existing health conditions; some even offer medical tests.