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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Healthy Tips : Learn How You Can Save Money on High Health Care Costs - Even Without Health Insurance!

Today, if you have no health insurance, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars if you have an accident or major illness. The cost of health care has increased so much that it is impossible for many people to visit a physician when they are ill.

Emergency rooms are seeing more very serious illnesses now, because people do not visit their doctors when an illness is minor. Instead, they suffer with the illness until it becomes very serious, causing them to go to an emergency room instead. Fewer employers (smaller businesses in particular) are providing health insurance to their employees, leaving the employees the option of having no health care coverage or purchasing their own.

And the vast majority of families cannot afford to pay the full premium of health insurance, so most must choose to do without. In fact, some studies show that approximately 70 percent of Americans have either no health insurance or they are under-insured. Those who are considered poor, may qualify for assistance from the state or county in which they live. Each state has their own qualifying criteria, so those seeking such assistance will have to contact their own county or state for information.

In some states, the assistance is excellent for those who qualify, even paying for a taxi to transport them to their physician during inclement weather. In other areas, the assistance is minimal, i.e. a patient can have a tooth pulled and the county agency will pay for it, but they cannot have their tooth repaired, because it costs more.

So, if you are one of those with no health insurance for yourself or your family, what can you do to reduce your health care costs? There are several ways to reduce costs. Some are better than others, and some people will qualify for all of them, while others qualify for only one or two. We have all heard the horror stories of people going to an emergency room for an injury or illness only to have an extensive wait to be treated, often six hours or more.

A better alternative is to go to one of the many Urgent Care Centers that can be found in most cities. The wait to see a physician may not be quick, but it will most certainly be shorter than at the ER. And, if you are paying out of your own pocket, it will very likely be less expensive at the Urgent Care Center. To save money when you see your physician, you may want to join one of the discount health plan providers.

There are several companies that charge a monthly fee (sold either per person or per family or household), and when you visit their network of providers (which are usually available in abundance in large cities, fewer in smaller cities and towns); you pay a discounted rate for the services or treatment rendered. The discounts can vary from one area to another and depending upon the treatment received, from only about 15 to 50 percent or more.

These plans usually provide discounts on lab work and other tests ordered by your physician. Some also provide discounts at dentists, for prescriptions, vision care, chiropractic care and even elective procedures and alternative medicine. The discount plans usually have a monthly fee, paid by automatic debit that ranges from about $20 to around $60 per month, and often the fee covers an entire family/household. Another advantage of these programs is that, besides receiving discounted medical treatment, you need not get approval from an insurance company for tests or other treatment your doctor orders.

You will receive the discount on any treatment ordered by your doctor, and even for cosmetic surgery and other optional care. Also, everyone qualifies for these plans, and no one can be turned down. If you require a prescription, many physicians will provide you with samples, but you may have to ask. Pharmaceutical representatives provide many samples to doctors, wanting them to give them to their patients. There are also several Prescription Advocacy Programs that are suitable for those who take prescriptions regularly.

Each program has its own qualifying criteria, but they usually are restricted first by the income of the patient. Other criterion that sometimes comes in to play is whether or not the patient has insurance and whether the insurance will pay for particular medications.

You may have to become a member to receive the benefits of these programs, but the savings on your prescriptions can be huge. For instance, if all your monthly prescriptions total $200 per month, and you have no health insurance to cover any of the costs, you may be able to join a program for small start-up cost with an additional monthly fee. With one Prescription Advocacy Program of which I am aware, the sign-on cost is $25, and the monthly fee is $82 (per person).

Besides the monthly fee, you pay nothing toward the purchase of your prescriptions! Using the $200 per month example referred to above, you would save $118 every month. If you take even more prescriptions or very expensive prescriptions, you could save much more. If you are one of the unlucky many who have no health insurance, you may want to take advantage of one or all of these cost-cutting methods.


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