Put health care costs under the knife

With health care costs steadily rising and family budgets contracting, financial and health care experts recommend that consumers take control over their medical costs. Most urge being relentless in asking questions, searching for alternatives and maintaining self-discipline.

Consumers should shop for better prescription deals, says Devon Herrick, a health care economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis. They should also consider therapeutic alternatives and generics, and compare prices among local pharmacies and reputable online sites.

For instance:

  • Many doctors provide patients with free samples of drugs that pharmaceutical companies are promoting.
  • And increasingly, physicians are distributing coupons for discounts on a particular medication.
  • Many pharmacies in North Texas, including those at Wal-Mart, Kroger, Target and Walgreen stores, offer generic drugs for $4 a month or $10 for a 90-day supply.
  • CVS Pharmacy this month began offering a $10 drug plan, which includes a 90-day supply of more than 400 common generic medications and discounts on medical care at its in-store clinics.

    If lab work is needed, Herrick suggests shopping around, calling at least two labs to get test prices in advance. Consumers should also check prices for both cash and your insurance plan's negotiated rate. Paying upfront and filing insurance forms yourself may save significant costs.

    Lastly, try cutting hospital visits altogether. Doctors say many chronic conditions – such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes – can be prevented or managed through free health fairs and diagnostic facilities to avoid hospitalisation:
  • Retail clinics across North Texas, many in Wal-Marts and CVS drugstores, can cost significantly less than an office visit.
  • Most MinuteClinics popping up across North Texas treat common ailments such as allergies, bladder infections and strep throat for $59 to $69.
  • Prices for 12 common vaccinations range from $30 for a pneumonia shot to $110 for meningitis.
  • Those with insurance may owe nothing, since many policies cover the full cost.

    Source: Jason Roberson, Put health care costs under the knife, Dallas Morning News, November 26, 2008.

    For text: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-Medicalcosts_26bus.ART0.State.Edition1.4a63710.html

    For more on Health Issues: http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=16

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 02 December 2008
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