How to Get Healthcare When You’re Out of a Job (Without Robbing a Bank)

June 24, 2011

Earlier this month, James Verone walked into a North Carolina bank and handed the teller a note that read “This is a bank robbery. Please only give me one dollar.” No, this isn’t the doing of a man not of sound mind—rather, it’s the work of a man not of sound body, which was something he wanted to remedy. He committed his “robbery” in the hopes of going to prison, where he’d be able to take advantage of free healthcare. Verone had become unemployed a few years ago; as a result, he didn’t have healthcare, which he needed so that he could have various ailments—including a foot problem, disc problems, and a growth on his chest—finally fixed.

Verone’s not alone in his plight of being unemployed with no health insurance, but the path he took to attempt to get free medical care is unorthodox and not recommended. Below, check out some free and low-cost healthcare options you can take advantage of without a brush with the law:

  • Need to see a doctor, dentist, or behavioral health specialist? The National Association of Free Clinics can help. This national organization provides a wide range of health services to economically disadvantaged and predominately uninsured people. Their website, www.freeclinics.us, allows you to search by state to find a convenient, local free clinic.
  • If a child needs to be vaccinated, the Vaccines for Children Program can help. This federally funded program provides no-cost vaccines to children who might otherwise not be vaccinated due to cost concerns.
  • The American Optometric Association can help with vision-related issues. They can provide public health services to uninsured and low-income families.
  • Senior citizens can use Benefits Check Up to assist them in finding programs that could pay for a portion of the costs associated with their essential health care, such as prescription drugs, utilities, and more.
  • Qualified patients who are having difficulty paying for necessary prescriptions can seek help from the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. This organization can help people obtain prescriptions at low cost—and often at no cost.
  • The National Organization for Rare Disorders helps uninsured and underinsured people—those whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford their prescriptions–obtain life-saving and life-sustaining medications. Those affected by–or wanting to be screened for–cancer can seek help from a variety of organizations. The Avon Foundation Breast Care Fund links medically underserved women to resources such as screening services and breast health education, while the American Breast Cancer Foundation provides financial assistance to underinsured patients for breast cancer testing and other support services. The national, nonprofit organization Cancer Care provides professional support services at no charge to anyone affected by cancer; these programs include counseling, education, financial assistance and more.

Find more tips designed to help you save your money and your sanity while navigating the healthcare system at HealthcareSurvivalGuide.com.

 

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Find low-cost or free dental services nationwide

January 21, 2011

In today’s economic climate, most people find it hard enough to afford keeping up with their basic medical care, let alone dental care.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Besides the obvious cosmetic benefits of taking care of your teeth, the American Heart Association says that keeping good dental hygiene could reduce your risk of heart disease.

Fortunately, the folks at WorlDental.org have put together an expansive database of free and low-cost dental services throughout the United States. The site features loads of information on clinics, fairs, and other places to get cheap dental care in Minnesota, Northern California, and Indiana; North Carolina, Michigan, and Maryland; Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hamphire; as well as New Jersey and virtually anywhere else in America.  The site is updated continuously, so if you don’t see a clinic or event in your area, check back soon.

Are you having trouble paying for dental care? Would WorlDental be helpful to you? Leave us a comment!


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!


The Dangers of Inactivity

January 14, 2011

The health dangers associated with prolonged periods of inactivity have long been known to the medical community and the general public. Parking yourself in front of the television and avoiding exercise, the common wisdom goes, can lead to weight gain and deteriorated health.

However, a new study from the University of Queensland, Australia, brings to light more details regarding the dangers of sitting. According to the study, prolonged periods of sitting — even among those who exercise regularly — lead to a bigger waistline and increased levels of blood fats.

This data comes on the heels of a University College London study  that found that the risk of heart disease doubled among those who spent more than four hours a day on the computer. Furthermore, the risk of a cardiovascular event increased 125 percent for people who spent at least two hours in front of a television or computer screen after work.

What’s shocking about these findings is that regular exercise alone isn’t enough to combat several hours’ worth of sitting — something millions of Americans do everyday at their desk jobs. Genevieve Healy, the lead author of the Queensland study, suggests that regular exercise mixed with frequent breaks during the workday to stand or walk around is the most effective way to offset the negative effects of sitting.

For many of us, spending over four hours a day in front of a computer is unavoidable. Based on these findings, what do you plan to do to offset the negative effects of sitting? Let us know in the comments!


Looking for ways to cut your medical costs? Start by talking to your doctor

January 12, 2011

As out-of-pocket costs continue to rise, paying for care can seem overwhelming. It may be easy to overlook the simplest – and most direct – means of accomplishing this difficult task: negotiating with your doctor. Although this may sound daunting, doctors are aware that out-of-pocket costs are rising and that many people are uninsured, and fully expect questions about costs. In fact, according to one survey, a surprising 61 percent of patients who asked their providers for a discount received one, so don’t be afraid to ask!

To help you prepare for this conversation, The New York Times had Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren of the University of Pennsylvania to answer commonly asked questions about negotiating with your healthcare provider. The Q + A covers a number of issues, such as when to bring the topic of cost reduction up or what homework you should do prior to the appointment. There are many things that you can research, such as the average price of a service, which will give you some leverage in negotiating with providers.

One of the main points to be taken from this Q + A is that doing your own research can go a long way in saving you money. Dr. Kullgren refers to healthcarebluebook.com to help you find average costs of particular services, which you will be able to use as a tool in negotiating a reasonable price with your provider. It is also important to be aware of other opportunities, such as free/low-cost health facilities, which could be a federally-funded center or provided by a university. We post these resources as we find them, but for now, two entries, here and here can help you get started in your efforts to save money.

Here, Stephen Meyers, M.D. offers additional insight on how to approach negotiating costs with your medical providers.


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.


Top 5 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Medical Bills

January 5, 2011

Doctor and hospital bills are routinely rife with errors and inaccuracies – costing you precious money. Save cash and peace of mind with these five tips on monitoring your medical bills, brought to you by The Healthcare Survival Guide: Cost-Saving Options for the Suddenly Unemployed.

1. Be specific when clarifying coverage with your insurer. Before receiving a medical procedure, check with your insurer to be sure what they will and will not cover. Keep detailed records of who you spoke with and when – this information will help you greatly when disputing a billing error.

2. Address billing errors quickly and aggressively. All too often, insurance companies and doctor’s offices issue incorrect bills. Don’t be a victim: insurance companies will often reprocess a claim, saving you money.

3. BYOM – Bring Your Own Medication. Don’t waste money paying for the same drugs at the hospital pharmacy.

4. Ask if you can pay in cash. Many hospitals offer a discount on bills paid in cash rather than check or credit. It never hurts to ask.

5. Opt for a non-teaching hospital, if possible. Community hospitals offer similar care as academic medical centers, and often at a lower cost. Ask your doctor.