by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Everyone wants cheaper medical costs. Doctors included. Here are some simple recommendations you can use to save money on health care now.
- Ask for generics. I know, not a unique recommendation, but have you asked? Tell your doctor upfront before he starts writing that prescription. Sometimes only brand-name will do, but talk it over.
- Ask if you can get double the strength and break the pill in half. Some pills have an indentation in the middle. With a cheap pill splitter from the drugstore, you can cut them in half. Double-strength of the same medicine is rarely double-price. Don't do this unless you've talked it over with your doctor and the pill has an indentation.
- Try a manufacturer’s savings program. If your prescription is going to cause a financial burden, see if you qualify for a discount from the medication's maker. For details, contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. Ask your doctor for a few samples to get you by meantime.
- Question that test or referral. Do this with a little tact. You should be able to trust your doctor, but be comfortable enough to question why. After all, it is your body and pocketbook. Why is the test needed? What are the potential consequences of not getting it, or not seeing that other doctor? Are there alternatives?
- Ask whether there's a discount if you pay cash up front. If you don’t have insurance, some providers may offer discounts for paying cash, or offer sliding-scale fees dependent on your income.
- Submit all charges to your insurance company even if you have a high deductible. If your provider accepts your insurance, they likely abide by the fee schedule set up by the carrier, and you may get a resultant discount from the upfront fees.
- Educate yourself about which screening tests you need, and get them on time. If you don't, you may have more than money to worry about.
- Don’t neglect regular preventive screenings. Get minor problems treated before they become emergencies. Also, this gives you time to shop for best prices, find a doctor you trust, nip problems in the bud and stay out of the costly emergency room.
- Learn remedies for minor illnesses and injuries. Know red flags for when you should seek professional care. Read. Ask questions.
- Live a healthy lifestyle with a good diet, regular exercise and no tobacco. It will do wonders.
These few small steps can lead to big savings in money and health.
JAMES HUBBARD, M.D., M.P.H., has been a family doctor for 30 years. He's the publisher of MyFamilyDoctorMag.com and TheSurvivalDoctor.com, where he teaches people how to survive during disasters and other situations when they can't get professional medical help.
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Last updated and/or approved: April 2012. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.