Consumer Watch: Cost saving ideas for medical care

Consumer Watch: Cost saving ideas for medical care

August 27th, 2017 by Ellen Phillips in Business Diary

The biggest political hullabaloo lately has been health care and what to do about potential changes. It's not too early to think of ways we can save money by keeping medical costs under control. Real Simple magazine offers some great tips as we make our arduous way down that expensive turning and twisty health care road.

  • Don't automatically seek screenings from your pediatrician. When health screenings are required for sports, for example, some schools provide medical staff at the school to perform physicals. Savings? A bunch of bucks.
  • Urgent cares are the wave of the future, according to forecasters. Family practice physicians are on the decline for a variety of reasons, primarily money-related; urgent care clinics are popping up on every corner, which can be a good thing for folks with broken fingers, flu, and the like. Less expensive than a traditional office appointment and certainly those ER visits, the centers can be a time-saver as well. Also an urgent care facility is often perfect for those patients who are insured as well as those who aren't.
  • Obtain copies of your medical records when you see your doctor. Either copy the files or snap photos on your phone during the visit and save to a flash drive. When undergoing screenings such as CT Scans, MRI's, mammography, etc., be sure to request your own copy. Keep these in a secure place at home so you can prove you've had the tests and not undergo another expensive (and unnecessary) procedure. Once physicians can immediately peruse these files, they're less likely to order further tests to diagnose what's wrong. Check out the secure app "My Medical" ($5 for IOS and Android), to make details quick and easy for each visit, especially with a different provider.
  • Shop around for medications. This advice is crucial to save money. Whether your local pharmacy's own savings program, your insurance's pharmacy costs or mail order pharmacy, online or apps like GoodRX, Blink Health, and so forth, it definitely pays to explore different avenues. (We actually have three programs on hand at our pharmacy and, for 30-day scripts, the pharmacist knows to check all three, plus our regular insurance plan, to see which gives us the best price for that particular med.) GoodRX shows the cheapest price for meds in our area(s), plus gives out manufacturer coupons. Blink guarantees one price at every pharmacy, a $5 first purchase discount and $15 referral vouchers that never expire. And save more money by splitting up (literally) high-dose pills. Generally priced the same as their low-dose counterparts, ask the physician if you can safely split the higher-dosage pill in half. Savings can be as much as $179 to $610 yearly per prescription if you're not insured or 50 percent on copays if you are!
  • Stretch appointments and pay only a fraction of the cost. I admit I've never heard of this tactic before, but some practices allow group visits where each person gets hands-on care and also share experiences with others who suffer from similar, chronic health conditions. Some appointments offer private, individual exams, while other exams may be provided with the whole group, obviously depending upon the nature of the visit. Appointment sharing can also make treatments not covered by your insurance plan more affordable.

Just remember: State health care plans may change, especially in this wild day and age. For the latest information, visit the advocacy group FamiliesUSA.org.

P.S. Though not medical savings per se, a quick-thinking reader sent word to save many of us a stress-related headache and, perhaps, some unwarranted expenses. Belk recently mailed a letter to its qualified credit card holders advising that a Belk Mastercard will be sent to them this fall. As readers know, I'm very much against unsolicited credit cards; it's bad enough when the suggestion comes from a credit card company, but when it appears from an unsuspected, non-suspicious source such as good old Belk, it's time to take note. Although the provision to call and decline the card appears at the bottom of the notification letter, it easily could be overlooked. Therefore, I urge readers to flood Belk's corporate office with calls and/or emails about this intrusive credit card "bargain." Call 704-357-1000 or email Belk_Customer_Care@belk.com.

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.


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