Downsizing is more than the house for most of us. It’s also hand in hand with a downsized budget and income, and sometimes, it really isn’t by choice. Even so, we put our best foot forward, and keep on keeping on, all part of a survivor’s nature, I suppose.
Part of that downsizing often means that there is no more health and dental insurance. That can be a potentially big “ouch” if anything goes wrong. Hospital visits, doctor visits, prescriptions, dentist visits, etc. add up fast. How can you keep these costs down?
First step is to be pro-active. Don’t wait until the crisis occurs, because then you are forced to visit the hospital ER or pay out a massive sum for an office call to a doctor or dentist that may have been avoided by seeking care earlier. Hospital bills never go away, and they can be quite aggressive in their attempts to collect. There are few programs for even low income adults without children and under age 65 to assist with medical costs either, especially after the fact.
So how can you get medical care and avoid many hospital ER visits? Here’s four suggestions.
- Look for a free or sliding scale clinic. Be warned, they are never convenient and are always very time consuming to use though. If you are also working, it adds to the cost of using them, and may outweigh the discount you receive by their use.
- Shop around. It may sound cynical, but in economic times like these, we have got to be very pragmatic about everything, including our own care. We have to weigh the quality versus the cost and convenience. Right in our own area, the cost of an office call can vary from about $50 for a basic brief visit to over $100, and that’s not for a specialist either. Technically, the quality of care should be about the same, although the facilities may vary a lot in their attractiveness. NEVER use a clinic that appears dirty or unclean, no matter how cheap it is. Cleanliness is pretty cheap, so if the facility isn’t clean, there’s a serious problem, and it could lead to you leaving sicker than you were when you arrived.
- Shop around for prescription costs too. Sometimes the same sliding scale clinics offer prescriptions, but often it’s not going to be cost effective to fill them there, especially if its one of the many prescriptions offered by Walgreens or Walmart for $4. If you can’t pronounce the medication’s name (the usual case with these long generic names) or you can’t read the prescription (another common problem) then your only option is to physically take the prescription to the pharmacy and ask about the price. NEVER fill one without asking–some prescriptions can cost hundreds of dollars to fill. If it’s for a drug that is out of your price range, call the doctor and ask for a lower cost alternative. There usually is one that is similar that is on the low cost list. Another good idea is to take a copy of that list with you to the doctor, and make sure he prescribes from it. This list includes most drug types, so if he can’t use one from that list, ask why. Sometimes there is a reason for the more expensive drug besides it’s the “drug-of-the-week” from the pharmaceutical companies. Ask the doctor if he has samples of the drug–he might, and just might not think of them. Sometimes a doctor can give you enough to avoid a prescription altogether, and is willing to do that for cash strapped clients, especially if you have a long term relationship with that provider.
- There’s also always the barter option. If you, or your partner, has a skill that the doctor or dentist might need…you might be able to come up with a plan that works for both. It isn’t always some exotic skill either. It might well be something as simple as yard maintenance, car repairs, or even house work. If spending a summer mowing and weed whacking around his house or clinic (or whatever labor agreement) buys you those fillings or doctor visits you need, would it be worth it to you?
Part of downsizing is learning to be creative at solving life’s little problems, and preferably before they become life’s big problems. It’s a lot easier to come up with creative solutions to fix that broken tooth or high blood pressure than it is to come up with ways to pay a hospital stay. Being pro-active means that a little bit more of that cash that is often so important in our daily lives actually manages to stay in our pockets a little bit longer.