It would be hard to find someone in this country who hasn’t heard of the healthcare reform. If it passes and everyone receives health coverage it will still take time to be finalized and put into practice. If it doesn’t, then we’re stuck in the same place we are now. Either way, everyone should know some basic tricks for cutting down on health costs.
Bring your own medication. If you are in the hospital and you have medication that you take every day you can bring your own (or have a family member or friend bring them to you). These are called “self administered medications” and can save you a ton of money. Hospitals often charge three or four times as much for the exact same medication.
Go generic. Not every drug has a generic counterpart but those that do often run 30 to 50 percent cheaper. According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the 2008 average retail price of a generic prescription drug was $35.22. The average retail price of a brand name prescription drug was $137.90. That’s a big difference.
Ask for free samples. Doctors often get sent free samples of all kinds of medication. It never hurts to ask.
Drugstore clubs. Some stores, like BJs, Wal-mart and Sam’s Club have prescription savings clubs. Ask your drugstore or pharmacist about this. However, do not sign up for random “prescription drug clubs” online. Many of these are scams.
Free vaccines. The CDC often has lists of where you can get free vaccines for your children. Vist the CDC’s Vaccines for Children page.
Pharmaceutical Patient Assistance Programs. Many pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs. Here are a few:
- RxAssist provides access to some of these programs, including online medications, it claims to be the “web’s most current and comprehensive directory of Patient Assistance Programs”
- NeedyMeds can find help with the cost of your medicine, info about pharmaceutical company assistance programs, disease-specific assistance programs, free clinics, discount drug cards, government medication programs and programs for children
- Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPARx) helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get the medicines they need through the program that is right for them. Many will get their medications free or nearly free. Sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, physician organizations and patient advocacy groups.
- CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation helps pay for medication used to treat cancer
- Together Rx Access helps those with no prescription coverage and who aren’t eligible for Medicare and satisfy the income requirements; the website claims most cardholders save 25-40 percent on over 300 brand name medications. It is sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.
Avoid emergency rooms. The ER can be very pricey, if you don’t have a life threatening emergency make an appointment at your family doctor instead.
Shop around for lab work. Lab work can be really expensive. If you don’t have health insurance you should call the lab and ask how much something is going to cost, check online at mymedlab.com and bloodworksusa.com
Dental schools. Going to the dentist can be very painful, both for your mouth and your wallet. Try your local dental school, they often need people to practice on.
Dollar store. Dollar stores often has really cheap exercise equipment including yoga blocks, mats, jump ropes and exercise videos.
Of course the best way to save money on healthcare is not to get sick. Prevention is so much cheaper than treatment. This list is easy to write and I’m sure it sounds easy to follow but there may actually be nothing more difficult to do. Here a few basic ways to stay healthy:
- Don’t do illegal drugs
- Don’t drink too much alcohol
- Don’t smoke cigarettes
- Eat a healthy low-fat diet (even better: eat a diet of mostly fruits and vegetables)
- Reduce stress
- Stay out of the sun and don’t visit tanning booths
Many health problems come from eating too much fat and food that isn’t good for you and from things like smoking cigarettes, drinking too much, and other bad-for-you behavior.
Remember: It’s much cheaper to prevent illness than to treat it.