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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saving Money on Healthcare

I just posted about a free skin cancer screening, but here are some more ways to save money on healthcare.  (My day job is in this, so I do know what I'm talking about here! :))
  1. For those with insurance, if you don't go to the doctor often and you get to choose your insurance plan, choose a high deductible plan.  Sure, paying a $3,000 deductible looks daunting, and this may be the year something happens and you have to pay it all, but chances are you will not have to pay it all and will save a lot of money every month as your premium will be less.
  2. For those without insurance and no way to get it, it can be scary, but know there is help out there if something happens.  Say something happens and you need an MRI.  Those run thousands of dollars.  Locally there is an orthopaedic office that gives free MRIs to those who qualify.  Note this does not have to be say an MRI of your hip because you're having extreme pain.  It can be an MRI of the abdomen or something else not related to what an orthopaedic doctor would treat.
  3. Again, for those without insurance, many cities have free clinics, call around to see if there is one in your area.  In Virginia there is a program Every Woman's Life which provides "free mammograms, clinical breast exams, Pap tests and pelvic exams to women who qualify."  In the worst case scenario, "If breast or cervical cancer is diagnosed after obtaining screening through the Every Woman's Life program, treatment may be provided free of charge through Medicaid."  Occasionally I'll see ads in the paper for free prostate screening also.  The health system I work for also gives a 50% discount on services if you pay in full at the time of service.
  4. Buy generic.  I've only seen a few instances where the doctor felt the patient needed to be on the name brand versus generic medication.  My $4 prescription works just as well as my $20 prescription.
  5. Some sites will talk about tranferring prescriptions around getting the $25 giftcard to the store for transferring.  Do so with caution.  First, if you're filling a narcotic at a different pharmacy every month, believe me, even if you're not doing anything wrong, eyes are going to be on you.  Second, if you only get a prescription now and then and don't take anything in the interim, that should be fine, but if you're on a lot of medicines and forget to write one down on your patient info sheet at the pharmacy, you run the risk of possible drug interactions being missed.  This could turn out very bad.
  6. Use the urgent care center rather than the emergency room.  There are some things that require the ER: heart attack or stroke symptoms, gunshot wounds, etc.  If you have a possible sprain, a bad rash, possible strep throat, stick to the urgent care center.  Not only is it going to be a lot cheaper, but if people are using urgent care instead, that frees up a bed for you at the ER when you're there with a real emergency.
  7. Know how your insurance works.  Most insurances require you to contact your Primary Care Physician for their okay prior to going to urgent care or the ER.  Obviously if your arm is hanging off and you're bleeding immensely, you need to go on to the ER, but if you've had a rash that's been around for a month and is finally driving you crazy, they may recommend something for you to use this evening and see them the next day.
  8. Also, if you to go the urgent care or ER without your doctor's approval and they deny a referral for you, if your insurance does not deem your visit an emergency, they do not have to cover your visit and you will be stuck with a bill.
  9. Know where your insurance goes.  If you do go to urgent care or the ER but go to one not in-network with your insurance, your insurance also doesn't have to pay for that visit either if they feel you could have driven a few more minutes to get to an in-network facility.
  10. Ask.  This goes for anything.  Ask for samples if you can't afford your medicines.  Ask your doctor if they know of patient assistance programs to help you get your medicines greatly reduced or free.  Ask if they know of anywhere you can get services cheap if you require more testing or to see a specialist.  Ask if your doctor will work out a payment plan for you.  There are people out there willing to help.  You're not the only one in that situation and no one will think less of you for asking!!!
A final thought for those who think the whole situation would resolve itself if doctors didn't charge so much.  Your doctor does not charge so much because he's looking to buy a new Lexxus or Ferrari.  Their prices have to go up because insurance reimbursement has gone down.  Their prices have to go up to make their reimbursement be remotely near what it was last year.  They also have to pay for supplies, staff, etc.  They don't do it because they're greedy.

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