Cut Health Care Costs

by Erika Bales

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Millions of Americans live without health insurance coverage. Any medical costs can seem intimidating and potentially devastating financially. While medical emergencies are unavoidable and you should never risk your health to save money, there are ways to mitigate the costs.

Perhaps most importantly, is the area of preventative care. Vitamins and diet can mean the difference between misery and relief during cold and flu seasons. Vitamins can boost the immune system and deter feelings of being run down. Diet greatly impacts how the body functions. Fruits and vegetables are always preferable to junk foods, drive-thru or fried foods, which can elevate cholesterol levels. To reduce dehydration, be sure to consume a minimum of six to eight glasses of pure drinking water per day. When taken in moderation due to caffeine contents, teas can do wonders to cleanse the body's systems.

Sunshine really does brighten days and lift spirits. Fresh air and sunshine can also be an ally against illness. Maintaining regular sleep habits is also integral to an active lifestyle. A minimum of eight hours sleep each night is recommended. Exercising 20 to 30 minutes per day can greatly reduce stress and assist in fighting illness. During the warm months, forego long supermarket lines and crowded shopping malls. Instead, opt for open-air flea markets and farmers markets. Walking around these markets is also excellent low-impact exercise. If time does not allow the opportunity for perusing the outdoors for deals, do not insist on parking as close to the supermarket or mall doors as possible. Rather, park farther down the lanes. This not only lessens the likelihood of expensive damage to automobiles from opened doors and rogue carts, but it also provides some additional exercise opportunities.

Self-examinations are vital to the maintenance of good health. Self-administered breast and testicular exams can often detect abnormalities. Early detection can prevent the spread of deadly cancers. As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

A substantial amount of money can be trimmed from the costs associated with a visit to the doctor. The emergency room should not be used as a substitute for a general practitioner. Emergency room care costs are inflated and patients may have to wait an excruciatingly long time before being treated. If waiting is not a concern, visit a clinic where pay scales are based on either disposable income or what a patient care realistically afford to pay.

Attending a physician's office is not necessarily out of the question either. A great way to cut these costs is to ask to be treated by a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Statistics website, nurse practitioners "required about two years of graduate education leading to a master's degree." The website points out that nurse practitioners can treat general illnesses and perform routine examinations, but cannot charge the full rate of a doctor. Many doctors' offices will also make payment arrangements or give discounted rates to those who do not have insurance. Be up front about your financial situation and most doctors will do their best to help. If they will not, a new physician may be in order.

Any time a bill is generated for services received while in the care of a doctor be sure to review it, even if an insurance carrier is making the payments. Do not pay for aspirin not taken or bandages not used. Mistakes are made, but there is no need to pay for care you never received.

One final area where health care costs can be cut is prescriptions. It is perfectly acceptable to ask a doctor questions. When a prescription is suggested, ask if the condition will clear up with time and patience or a lifestyle adjustment. Do not pay for and take prescriptions unless absolutely necessary. Prescriptions are often a necessity, but brand name pills are not. Be sure to ask for a comparable generic brand. Significant savings can often be found by contacting several local pharmacies to see who charges the least for the prescription in question. Certain pharmacies also offer an initial discount for transferring business to their store. Take advantage of these offers if savings continue over time.

The human machine needs maintenance just as an automobile does. These needs should not be ignored, nor should the costs be a source of additional stress. Follow these simple tips and health care may become an easier pill to swallow.

Take the Next Step:

  • Make sure that you are fueling your body with healthy foods and meeting its need for proper rest, exercise, and hydration.
  • Get free health insurance price comparisons for individuals and families.

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