Being uninsured sucks.  I still make an effort to stay on top of my medical care. I go to the dermatologist once a year, the dentist twice a year and I also go for my annual check up at my primary care doctor.  All of this, for the most part, is paid out of pocket.  Here’s how I do it.

  • In my monthly budget, I have $100 budgeted for “medical and dental costs”.  Some months it’s a little more and some months a little less.
  • Although I don’t carry medical insurance, I do have the Ameriplan dental plan.  It is not insurance but it is a discount plan that my dentist accepts.  It costs $20 a month for my entire family and saves me about $300 a year.  After the $240 annual cost, I come out about $60 or more ahead each year.  This plan saves me about $50 per cleaning and checkup and then another $40 or so per procedure (fillings, emergency care, sealants, etc)
  • My dermatologist is really expensive but he is THE BEST at what he does.  When I go in for my skin checks and all the other stuff he does, it is usually more than I expect.  I pay $100 that day (from the budget) and then once I get the bill showing the balance due, I IMMEDIATELY call the billing office and set up a payment plan to pay off the balance.  In addition, they do give me a “cash/self pay discount” which most doctors will do if you just ask (it is usually at least 10%)
  • With my primary care doctor, I pay an $80 “deposit” when I go in and then they bill me for the balance.  After I had my last checkup, I got the balance for the remainder of the bill and it seemed a little high.  After 3 phone calls (totaling about 1 hours worth of my time), they figured out that I had been billed on the wrong code and my bill for $175 was really supposed to be for $102 once it was coded correctly and my “cash discount” was applied.  I saved $73 by spending one hour of my time making phone calls. ALWAYS call and ask if you think something is wrong.  It doesn’t cost anything to ask! You should know what you are paying for!
  • Be honest with your providers.  I make it very clear that I am a self-pay patient.  All of my doctors have been very helpful in finding prescriptions that are on the free prescription list at Publix or on the $4 prescription list at Walmart.  One time I needed a prescription that was $175!  There was no other option available but my doctor checked their room of samples and found a full sized tube of the prescription for me and gave it to me for free !  As an added bonus, the package had an online survey for me to take and that got me a $25 Amazon gift card for taking the survey!  Don’t forget to ask about “over the counter” medications as well.  They often have lots of samples to give away so don’t be shy!
  • Ask your doctor about free clinics.  The primary care doctor group that I see also runs an after hours free clinic for patients without insurance.  While I go to their regular office for my checkups, all of my other visits can be done at the after hours clinic for free and they also have access to my medical records because it is run by the same group of doctors.  Going to this after hours clinic can also get me reduced fees on any necessary labwork that I need done.

Hopefully this post gives you a few new ideas on how to save some money on medical care.  Your health is important and you need to take care of yourself, even if you don’t have insurance.

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Earlier this week one of Ben’s teachers and her daughter both came down with a stomach flu.  Now, it seems Ben has caught the same bug.  Yuck.  It is just a normal part of having kiddos in school …. they bring things home with them!

A few years ago, I hit upon this brilliant (yet obvious) idea of using the 48 oz. large tubs (3 pounds) that our butter comes in as, well, “puke buckets”.  Here’s what’s great about this idea:

  • They are free!  All you have to do is clean them out once the butter is gone.
  • It gives me the chance to recycle them and reuse them
  • It is MUCH nicer to throw up in a clean butter dish than it is to stick your head in a toilet or a garbage can
  • Since we have so many of them, we can keep one in every room so that there is always one nearby for emergencies when someone cannot make it to the bathroom in time
  • You can even keep a few clean ones in the car (along with the lids so that nothing spills)
  • They are smaller and easier to manage for little kiddos but they are also large enough to hold a lot!
  • Once they have been used, you can either clean them and reuse them again or just throw them away

In addition to having a few of these butter tubs always on hand, I also make sure that I always have these items in my kitchen:

  • Lysol or Clorox wipes for all the door handles, faucet handles and toilet handles
  • Lots of washrags
  • Lysol spray for disinfecting mattresses
  • A few extra bed sheets and towels
  • Baby wipes, kleenex, paper towels and toilet paper
  • Crackers, chicken soup, dry cereal and a clear soda like Sprite or ginger ale

Keeping these items on hand and ready to use makes dealing with a stomach virus a lot easier (because going to the store with sick kiddos, or when you are sick, sucks!)! If you plan ahead, you can grab these things when they go on sale or whenever you have a coupon too!

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Recently, Ben has not been feeling well. He had a sinus infection and missed three days of school last week because he was coughing so badly!  I have found that peppermint hot chocolate really helps clear the sinuses and just makes you feel better!  I was getting him hot chocolate almost every day at the Cumberland Farms store near us and it was “only” $1 per cup but then everyone in the household started wanting some and I soon realized that I needed to find a cheaper way to do this.

I got some peppermint extract but it was just too difficult to put only “one drop” into each cup of hot chocolate.  After thinking about it,  I realized that I could just make his hot chocolate as usual (from a regular packaged mix) and then add one or two Junior Mint candies to it!  Stir the hot chocolate until they have dissolved and it was just the right amount of mint!  He loves it!

A “movie theater” sized 4 oz. box of Junior Mints has about 48 pieces in it.  That is enough for at least 24 cups of peppermint hot chocolate!  Cheaper to use and easier to find than the extract!

Here is the cost breakdown (rounded):

  • Prepackaged hot chocolate mix bought at Aldi: 10 in a box for $1.19 = 12 cents each cup
  • Junior Mints bought at Dollar tree: $1 for a box of 48 (use 2) = 4 cents per cup
  • Total cost to make a cup:  16 cents (instead of $1)
  • Total cost to make 24 cups:  $3.84 (instead of  $24 !!!!!)

Not only is that a GREAT savings ($20 extra bucks stay in MY pocket!) but I love the fact that I can keep this on hand so whenever I need to I can just make some up instead of running up to the convenience store!

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As the mother of a “disabled” child, I have had to learn the fine skill of deciding when to be a pain and when not to.  This skill is sometimes the difference between getting my child what they need, when they need it or having to wait until someone else decides our fate.  Although I have tailored this post to dealing with doctors offices, the skills really will work in just about any situation where you need some help.

My son has a FABULOUS team of doctors that work with us.  I call them “The Ologists” (as in Neurologist, Audiologist, Psychologist, etc…..).  After 5 years, they all know us pretty well.  There are a few things that I do, out of respect, so that we get treated with respect as well.

 

  • I only say my child needs an immediate appointment if it is really urgent.  Because this is so rare, thank goodness, all of the doctors offices know if I am calling for an urgent appointment, something serious is going on and it really is urgent.  I don’t “cry wolf” and wear out the staff with constant calls and concerns.
  • If I am calling the doctors office for an appointment because my child is in pain, or must be seen right away, and they say “Can you be here at 2 pm?”  The answer is YES!  It is difficult for the office staff to take your request that your child must be seen “right away” seriously if you tell them “No, we can’t make that time.  Do you have anything else available?”  Obviously if you are hemming and hawing about appointment times that fit around YOUR schedule, it’s not that much of an emergency.
  • If I call with an urgent need for care and they tell me that there is nothing available then I ask for the office manager.  Then I calmly and politely explain the whole situation, including why it is urgent and that we will take any appointment available, and ask if there is anything she can do.  I have never been turned down because I do it very respectfully and politely.
  • I hardly ever, almost never, cancel appointments.  Period.  In 22 years of parenting and four children, I have cancelled ONE appointment (and it was a dental appointment that I rescheduled).  Even then, I gave two days notice.
  • Do I need to point out that you should NEVER miss an appointment? When you miss appointments, it does not help your reputation with the doctors office staff.
  • I always arrive a little early so that we don’t keep the doctor waiting .  Sometimes we even get seen ahead of time.
  • If something happens and I owe more money to the doctors office than I thought I would, I explain the situation (truthfully) and ask for an envelope with their address on it so I can mail a payment to them on xyz date.  Oh, and the key is to actually mail the payment when you say you will.
  • If you cannot mail the whole payment, mail something.  Then keep mailing them a little every week (or every other week) so that your account stays in good standing.
  • Follow the doctors advice.  It does no good to go to the doctor and not do what they have told you to do (take medication, go see a specialist, schedule a follow up, get labwork done, etc)
  • If a medication is too expensive, ask your doctor if there is a generic or an alternative.  Most times there is another prescription that will work just as well as the expensive one.
  • I always make sure at the beginning of the phone call to a doctors office that I get the name of the person I am talking to.  Then, at the end of the call, I say “Thank you SO much !  I appreciate all of your help (fill in name here)!”  Also, I say the same thing to all of the staff we see when we are at the office.

 

The office staff at doctors offices need to be appreciated for the job they do.  They have enough patients that holler at them all day, every day.  Try to be one of the nice ones!  It pays off in the end!

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