Save Money at the Doctor's Office

This guest blogger recommends generics and retail clinics.

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Today's guest post comes from Trisha Wagner, a freelance writer for DestroyDebt.com, a debt community and debt forum. Trisha writes regularly on the topics of getting out of debt and personal finance.

Long before the current economic woes, millions of Americans have been without health insurance. Unfortunately, due to massive layoffs, affordable health care is an even bigger concern for many families now.

Even for people fortunate to still have jobs with health care coverage, the cost of insuring a family is twice as much as it was several years ago. 

Doctors are concerned that people are skipping routine health care visits to save money and may in fact be setting themselves up for larger and more costly health issues down the road. Before you cancel your next doctor's appointment, consider the following tips to cut costs without cutting coverage.

  • Ask your doctor about generics. In many cases, the generic version of a medication can work just as well for your needs at a fraction of the cost. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask your doctor about prescribing a generic version if he feels it will work for you.
    • Before going to the ER, consider a retail clinic. These clinics are generally staffed with nurse practitioners and physician assistants and can treat common ailments such as the flu, ear infections and other non-emergency conditions for much less than a trip to the ER.
      • Review hospital bills before filing. Hospital bills can be confusing, but it is imperative you review your bill for mistakes. It is not uncommon for hospitals to make errors on bills, if you don't understand your bill or charges you see on it, ask questions. Better to understand what you are reading than to pay for procedures you didn't receive.
        • Make lifestyle changes. Let's face it, by cutting out unhealthy habits you reduce your risk of being ill in the first place. If you smoke, quit. By ditching the cigarettes, you can immediately gain the health benefits of not smoking plus save some cash. Increased exercise will also likely reduce the number of future doctor's visits.
          • Get the financial help you need. You can check with your local assistance offices for medical assistance for low income families. When it comes to your health and that of your family, there is no room for pride to get in the way of receiving treatment. It is especially important for pregnant women, young children and older individuals or anyone with pre-existing conditions to remain under the care of a physician.
          • If you would like to contribute a guest blog entry to Alpha Consumer, please E-mail me at alphaconsumer@usnews.com.

            Additional note: Dan Schawbel, a leading personal branding expert for Gen-Y, interviewed me about recession 2.0. You can read our discussion here.