3 Ways to Save Money on Medical Expenses

With the economy quickly going downhill, job loss and the loss of employer provided insurance will probably increase in some communities.  Since I’ve been through that very experience, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about saving money on medical expenses.  A lot of this will apply to those with insurance, too, but it will be especially helpful for those without.

Look into Buying Your Own Insurance

If you’re healthy and have no pre-existing conditions, buying your own insurance is a great option.  Make sure you work with a licensed insurance agent in your state, though, because there are some companies that will only give you headaches.  Your insurance agent will know which companies to avoid.

A high deductible policy isn’t very expensive, and it’s better than having no insurance at all.

The big problem with buying your own insurance is that if you’ve ever had a medical problem, you’re likely to be denied.  I was denied on the basis of my migraine headaches, even though they’ve lessened to the point where I don’t take prescription medication anymore.

If you have children, it may be possible to buy inexpensive insurance through their schools.  It may not be the best insurance, but again, it’s better than nothing.

Avoid the Emergency Room

Emergency rooms are expensive.  A lot of uninsured people go to the emergency room instead of seeing a doctor.  Unless you have absolutely no money to pay the bill though (I believe emergency rooms have to treat, regardless of ability to pay), the emergency room is not a frugal option.

The best option is to find a clinic that works on a sliding scale fee structure.  If you don’t have one in your area, call your regular doctor to see what you can work out.  The two times we were without insurance, our doctor worked with us to provide low cost treatment for our medical issues.  And the cost of a doctor’s visit is less than a trip to the emergency room.

Go Generic

If you take a brand name medication, ask the doctor if you can switch to a generic version.  Walmart, Target, and an increasing number of pharmacies offer generic medication for $4 for a month’s supply.  Many of these pharmacies are also offering 90 day supplies for $10.  You can’t beat that!

When my husband was unemployed, I switched from a brand name medication to a generic.  The generic worked better for me, and I loved the $4 price, so I never switched back to the brand name.

Above all, take care of yourself.  Eat right, get enough sleep, and be careful.  The best way to save money on healthcare is to not get sick.  You can’t always prevent it, but there are many things you can do to decrease your chances of needing medical attention.

Do you have any tips for saving money on medical expenses?



Author

By , on Sep 30, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{7 Comments}

  1. Wendy:

    I just found out that our county has a “school based health clinic.” I really didn’t know what that meant but after a little asking around, I found out that my kids can go there for free even though we have health insurance. Wow! How cool to see a nurse practioner instead of driving 30 min and paying a copay for 4 children.

  2. Stacey:

    It is possible to get individual insurance with a pre-existing condition… but you really need to shop around. I have mild asthma and was rejected by a few insurance companies before I found one that worked for our budget. It doesn’t cost anything to request a quote, and even if you are accepted you have 30 days to cancel the policy.

    Never lie about your health: If you don’t disclose a problem, they can reject your insurance at a later time and leave you with the bill.

  3. I work in public health at the state department of health and have a master’s of public health in epidemiology.

    Primary prevention is the key. Get an annual checkup, including cholesterol and blood pressure screenings.

    For women, do not skip your ob/gyn checkups.

    Exercise, eat moderately, and sleep well.

    Do NOT smoke! DO NOT SMOKE!

    Do not drink alcohol if at all possible, especially if you are a female of childbearing age who could become pregnant. If you do drink, drink responsibly.

    Read your medication labels and keep medications away from kids. Don’t ever tell kids it’s candy.

    Take care when exercising- use a bike helmet, stretch before working out, and remember personal safety as well (take a cell phone, use a lighted path).

    Mental health is as important as physical health.

    Get your vaccinations. A flu shot / flu mist is so much less expensive than being down for two weeks with influenza.

    Get your children vaccinated. And get their booster shots on time. A child with chickenpox will be sick and out of school/daycare for two weeks, requiring a parent to be home with them. If the parent doesn’t get paid time off, that’s very expensive. No study to date has found any like to autism and vaccinations. We need the vast majority (95% and higher) to be vaccinated in order for “herd immunity” to work and protect everyone.

    Remember that an adult who gets pertussis or chickenpox can infect children, especially babies too young to receive certain vaccines. So adults need boosters too!

  4. If you have one, check and see if your local medical school has a clinic. These are typically low-cost to free, to give the medical students an opportunity to practice, and this works in a variety of areas (think also physician’s assistant programs, dental programs, chiropractic programs… you get the idea). And I’d add the caveat to be careful with your medical care if you’re uninsured– you don’t want to get diagnosed with a pre-existing condition!

  5. jan:

    Hi Lynnae,
    What a great blog! I happened upon you through Wise Bread. I have read several entries and enjoyed your perspective. God will provide and some things are more important than money.
    Don’t fret over the time it takes to settle in to your new home.
    Jan

  6. Ron:

    I would add that many states have programs to insure children who have no health insurance. That might be a good thing to check in to as well.

  7. I couldn’t agree more on your last point – improving your diet/weight and exercise regiment will certainly increase the odds of staying healthy – especially when you are older.

    My Dad is 69 and he has some lifestyle related illnesses (diabetes) – I’m sure he would give anything to go back in time and lose some weight.

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