Did you know there are close to 50 million Americans that don’t have health insurance or that do have health insurance coverage but are so buried in the ever-increasing costs of healthcare that they forego medical treatment? A Gallup survey, released in December 2012, showed more than “one-third of Americans (and more than half of those with no health insurance) delay seeking healthcare either for themselves or their family member – simply because of the cost.”
Individuals in need of medical care but who don’t have health insurance can still get an appointment at a primary care physicians’ office. When calculating the cost of healthcare, the highest priced options continue to be visits to the emergency room or the hospital; because these options are designated for those with dire need or true emergency situations, they have the highest price point.
Medicare certainly provides healthcare coverage but there are still times when seniors on fixed incomes find it difficult to afford medical treatments. What can you do if you’re in need of medical attention, but you’re not in an emergency health situation? Here are some options to consider:
- Many communities offer clinic care and in many areas of the country, pharmacists are providing non-emergency treatment for minor ailments. For example going to the pharmacy for a flu shot will typically cost less than $100 and will not have an additional co-pay feature associated with it. County run clinics are typically staffed with physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners and they are medically equipped to address routine ailments and offer treatment. Make a call to the local health department. There are some communities that offer information on healthcare at reduced costs based on household income.
- Urgent Care Facilities are popping up across the country and are a viable option for those suffering an injury or acute illness. These centers charge a flat fee for to see a physician and are a low cost medical alternative to heading to an emergency room for care.
- Just as you can ask for a discount for other service providers, it cannot hurt to ask your physician if they provide any kind of discount. There are some physicians that are willing to negotiate fees. Remember too, that a doctor that doesn’t have to complete paperwork and navigate the maze of health insurance providers may see a benefit in treating a patient without health insurance.
- Shop around for prescription discounts and reward options. Many pharmacies provide lower-cost generic alternatives to medications. There are also some pharmacies that offer monthly discounts to regular customers and if you deal with a pharmacy that offers reward incentives, you may find other money-saving options within in the store. Also, never be afraid to ask the pharmacist for a lower-cost prescription alternative; he will likely do so as long as it won’t cause any interaction with other medications you may be taking.
- If a visit to a hospital or emergency room is inevitable, ask to speak with someone about financial assistance as this is a way in which you may discover you’re eligible for a discount based on your income. Also, ask about negotiating a payment plan for the medical bills you may incur.
Staying active and eating a healthy diet are two of the best ways to help assure you remain healthy and can avoid visits to the doctor or emergency room.