Taking care of yourself for less

Healthcare Everywhere

by Heather L. Seggel

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Watch any television news program these days, and when the words "health care" are spoken, see if your shoulders don't creep up toward your ears. Regardless of where you stand politically, we all need to take care of ourselves, but it's increasingly costly to do so. Here are a few ways to save on healthcare costs.

First off, pay as much as you can afford for the best healthcare possible. This is just common sense. If you pour the money into a fancier car than you need and suddenly get sick, you may not be here to enjoy the wind in your hair while you cruise the highway. Health is the foundation on which the rest of your life rests, so don't skimp on it.

That said, do take advantage of free exams offered at your local drugstore or at area health expos. These services are offered as an incentive, in hopes that you'll transfer your prescriptions; of course, whether or not you become a return customer is up to you. Keeping an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels now can prevent major mishaps later. When you have something checked, note the results in your calendar or planner, and calculate what you saved by getting the exam for free. If possible, try to put that amount into savings, perhaps for more advanced testing, should you need it.

The Internet is a great tool for certain healthcare questions. If you look up a brand-name drug (like Crestor) at either WebMD.com or MayoClinic.com, the sites will automatically give you the generic name of the drug (rosuvastatin) and information about how it works and compatibility with other drugs. If a doctor recommends you take something, trust that they're advising you with your best interest at heart, but do your own research as well. Nobody's perfect, and since you're the one taking it, it's wise to verify that it's safe and will play nicely with your other prescriptions.

Another online time saver is finding information specific to your area. If you are uninsured, a Google search for "health insurance" along with the name of the county you live in can lead you to resources for public assistance, low cost clinics, and other resources. Follow the links and you may be able to apply for assistance online, as described below.

Look for information everywhere you go. It turns up in unlikely places. I found a flyer at my local unemployment office describing an online application form for county-based healthcare; many places require a paper application and in-person interview, but my region was on the online list, so I applied and qualified! It's by no means a perfect system, but after ten years without any medical or dental care, it's a blessing to be able to take care of some small things, and to know that the expense, while challenging, won't break me. Your public library or community center may have similar information available. Start reading and asking around.

On that note, don't assume anything until you've jumped in and asked a lot of questions. I did not expect to qualify for my local medical program due to a modest savings account for emergencies. However, the county shared my view that if I spent my emergency fund on routine health care and then had an emergency, I'd be homeless, which would end up costing a lot more for everyone involved. Ask questions and be prepared to hear the word "no" but keep looking and asking. You will find resources to help you.

You're running out of tofu anyway, so ask about alternative treatments for specific conditions at your local co-op or natural foods store. Nobody there who wants to keep his job is going to offer specific advice; what you want is access to their library! Most co-ops have copies of reference books and literature, so you can answer your own health care questions and hopefully buy remedies from them. But again, the resources are free to the public, and many folk remedies have, after working perfectly for 5,000 years or so, been given a legitimizing pat on the back from the Western medical establishment. So it's now okay to sip honey and lemon to soothe a cough, or put a baking soda and water paste on a mosquito bite! Educate yourself, and you can save a lot in the quest for better health.

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