Funding Your Family's Healthcare in Financial Crisis
Funding Your Family's Healthcare
We can compare our nation's financial situation to an illness. There are two possibilities. It could be a slow, chronic process or we may spike a very rapid fever. Although painful, I hope that America's economic illness is swift and make us stronger in the end.
As our nation weathers the fever of this financial crisis, we are forced to rethink the way we provide, receive and fund health care. Here are some ideas to consider which may make your health care more affordable.
1. Prevention of Disease
Never was there a more important time to talk about prevention. The most cost effective way to deal with a disease is to prevent it from happening. We all know that diet and exercise is the best medicine. However, talk to your doctor about the things you can do to prevent illnesses for which you may be at a higher risk. Is there diabetes or cancer in your family? Are you on medication that puts you at higher risk for developing a secondary disease? Are there things you can do now to prevent it?
2. Reevaluate Your Current Health Insurance
If you have a health benefit through your employer, explore the options that are available and reassess if the product you have is truly serving your needs.
If you are self insured and relatively healthy, consider moving into a high deductible (low monthly premium) health plan (HDHP) attached to a Health Savings Account (HSA). If you make the switch, be sure to commit a generous monthly contribution to the HSA for at least the first year. That way, if you need to cover your deductible in full, the money is there. If not, the money stays in the savings account and accrues interest. This money is available to you to spend as needed on vision, dental, acupuncture, massage and any other health care service that may not typically be covered in a basic plan. Contributions to your HSA are 100% tax deductible. For 2009, these amounts are $3,000 for single HDHP coverage and $5,950 for family HDHP coverage. These amounts will be increased for inflation in future years.
3. Shop Around!
Do you need medication, lab work or imaging? Just like any other customer service, pricing for medication and procedures is negotiable and you need to shop for deals!
Pharmacies frequently provide incentives to move your prescription. Check the newspaper and web for coupons and gift cards offered to make the switch. All you need to do is take an empty Rx bottle to the new pharmacy and they will do the rest. Click here for a $50.00 coupon to transfer your Rx to Rite Aid Pharmacy.
Pharmaceutical companies frequently post coupons online to cover co-pays or percentages for brand name medicines. Look up your medication online and go to the manufacturer's website for coupons. For example, if you are on Advair for your asthma and you google "advair coupon," you will link to the following savings.
Lastly, generic medications are always cheaper than brand names, so make sure you have made the switch. Fred Meyer will fill many generic meds for 4 dollars a month. Click here for the list of $4 prescriptions.
Lab work is another way that you can save by shopping around. Particularly if you pay out of pocket, have a very high deductible or are only needing basic routine labs. Every lab will have its own fee scale. You are not required to use your doctor or hospital's lab. Have your doctor write a prescription for your lab work and take it to the lab where you will get the best deal. Call around and ask the prices for the blood work that you need.
At our clinic, patients are able to get the following cash deals:
Vitamin D $40.00
Cholesterol Panel $20.00
Complete Blood Count $15.00
Thyroid Panel $25.00
Those are great prices! Call around to compare!
There are many imaging centers in town that provide MRI, X-Ray and Mammogram services. Call around to make sure you are getting the best deal. For example, I spent 10 minutes calling around about a cash price for an MRI of the knee. My results are as follows:
Providence hospital $968.00
EPIC Imaging $840.80
Mt. Scott MRI/ CT center $690.00 with a great financing plan!
4. Participate in Research
Do you have a particular condition that may qualify you for participation in research? Frequently, being enrolled in a research trial will provide free labwork, evaluation and treatment for your condition.
The National Institute of Health keeps record of clinical trials that are both privately and federally funded at www.clinicaltrials.gov.
OHSU posts their own open trials at this link.
The Helfgott Research Institute is a local facility advancing the science of natural medicine. Clinical research projects with a natural focus are posted at the above link. Contact the institute to see if any projects are recruiting.
5. Seek Out Assistance Through Grants and Non-Profits
Many conditions have support organizations that provide grants for treatment. Follow this link for updated list of funding resources for children with Autism. Keep in mind, I have several patients now who have been successful at acquiring grants and scholarships through these organizations. Persistence pays off!