Whether you don’t have health insurance or you have it but the deductibles are astronomical, we’ve found ways to lower the costs.
By Andrea Atkins
How to Afford Healthcare?
If you are one of the 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, or if you have health insurance but are paralyzed by the rising cost of your care, does it mean foregoing medical treatment? Alarmingly, a December 2012 Gallup poll said that one-third of Americans (and 55 percent of those with no health insurance) have put off medical care for themselves or for their families, because of the cost.
"If you need to see a doctor, and you don’t have insurance, you can get in to the doctor’s office, if you do your research ahead of time,” says Kristen Stoll, a consumer insurance expert at ehealthinsurance.com. "You should try to avoid the hospital or emergency room, which are the highest-cost options, and which are really designed for emergencies. If you have a sore throat, you don’t need emergency room care.”
1. Visit a Clinic
At malls and pharmacies across the country, doctors are setting up shop in retail establishments. These are the perfect places to head if you think you may need antibiotics or a vaccine or some other non-emergency treatment. A visit here will cost you between $40 and $75, according to the Convenient Care Association. You may see a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant at such a facility—not an M.D. That should be fine for most routine treatments.
2. Go to an Urgent Care Facility
These centers, and there are more than 8,000 of them around the country, will provide care for acute illness an
In some communities, the local health department will provide the names of physicians or health clinics that will provide services at a reduced cost.
4. Ask for a Discount
If there is a physician you would like to see, call ahead to see if his or her office will see you. If the rates are more expensive than you can afford, say so on the phone, and ask if they offer discounts. Many doctors are willing to negotiate their fees with you. And if you feel embarrassed to ask, keep in mind that you are saving them time and potential headaches since they don’t have to fill out health insurance forms.
5. Look into Prescription Discounts
Medications can be one of the biggest health care costs. To lower the price of your meds, talk to your doctor and the pharmacist about generic lower-cost alternatives. Also check out the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which can help you find low-cost drug programs, and Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, which can help you find your least-expensive medication options.
6. Ask About Assistance
If you do have to go to the hospital, ask if they have a financial assistance program, which can lower the cost of your bills based on your income and other factors.