Use of medical services likely to fall in early 2011

January 19, 2011

Over the last few years, expensive insurance premiums and rising unemployment have made Americans reluctant to spend money on costly non-essential procedures and medications. This reluctance often has led to patients skipping out on appointments and cutting back on medications.

Despite this trend, Debra Sherman of Reuters reports that there actually was an increase in spending on medical services during the fourth quarter of 2010. This brief lapse in financial conservatism could have happened for a number of reasons, including increased confidence in the economy. However, it’s more likely that people were attempting to make as many doctor visits as possible after meeting their annual deductibles. With these deductibles having been reset on January 1, it is expected that people will go back to skipping doctor visits.

It’s important to know that saving money does not have to cost you and your family sound health. There are other ways of cutting costs where you can maintain good health without breaking the bank. All you need to do is strategize:

  • Be proactive. Don’t default to any single doctor. Planning ahead and shopping around will provide you with many options. A lack of options may subject you to expensive services – more options means more prices to compare. Search your area for medical services and be open to different providers – community hospitals typically offer the same services as academic medical centers, but at a cheaper price.
  • Like we discussed last week, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about a discount. It never hurts to ask.
  • Keep a journal to keep track of all of the services you have received. When you receive your bill, match up records to make sure there are no errors.
  • Make sure to stay on top of your medical bills – this means being clear on what your insurer will and will not cover, addressing billing errors immediately, and writing everything down – if there is a dispute, it will support your argument to know who at your insurance company you spoke with and what it is you discussed.

Have you avoided care to save money? Tell us your story in the comments!

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Top 5 Ways to Cut Medical Costs

January 7, 2011

The cost of healthcare escalates by the day. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t find ways to cut corners on medical costs. Become a savvy health consumer with these five tips on cutting costs — without sacrificing quality of care — brought to you by The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed.

1. Find a doctor who will forgo medical fees. Yes, they do exist. You can search for doctors in your area willing to forgo fees through the American Medical Association’s website.

2. Negotiate a discount with your doctor. Doctors are often far more willing to offer a discount or a payment plan for care than you might think – in a recent survey, 61 percent of adults who attempted to negotiate a discount were successful.

3. Instead of a specialist, use your primary doctor. Family doctors, general internists and pediatricians tend to charge less than specialists and can sometimes offer the same caliber of care. If you need maintenance care for a controlled chronic condition, this may be an option for you.

4. Need dental? Try a university dental clinic. Seeking care at a university dental clinic can cut your costs greatly – in some cases, patients pay only for the necessary materials – and the dental students and interns are closely supervised. Your state dental society can help you find a clinic near you.

5. Participate in a clinical trial. The U.S. National Institute of Health’s website lists current clinical trials being held across the nation. If you qualify, you could greatly reduce the costs of your care and medication – or eliminate them altogether.


Free and low-cost care in San Francisco

October 28, 2010

As part of our ongoing effort to help you find free and low-cost healthcare resources when you need them most, we have been researching clinics and other thrifty resources throughout the country.

Today, we’ll talk about low-cost resources in San Francisco, CA. The San Francisco Department of Health has a comprehensive list of primary care centers, health clinics, dental clinics, and more. If you’re looking for free care, you might want to check out the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, which feature two medical clinics and a behavioral health center, as well as psychiatric services for prison inmates.

If you know of any other free or low-cost resources available in the Bay Area, leave a comment and let us know!