IF YOU NEED MEDICAL CARE NOW:
- You may be able to negotiate major discounts — up to 50 percent — by paying cash, so the doctor doesn’t have to deal with insurance company paperwork. When you make your appointment, say, “I’m paying at the time of my appointment with cash (or credit card). How much of a discount will you give me for paying cash? What will be the cost of this appointment?” Even if you have to pay 20 percent interest on your credit card for a year while you pay it off, this may be less expensive. Many providers also have discounts for the uninsured, and plans for paying over time.
Denver Health, for example, offers a 40 percent discount for “self-pay” patients, provided that they fill out a form and put down a deposit. The discount only applies to medically-necessary care, not to elective surgeries.
- Tell your doctor money is an issue, and ask if you really must have that test. He might find an alternative.
- Try one of 138 clinics in Colorado subsidized by the federal government. If you have little or no income, the office visits are quite inexpensive. If you have moderate income, you will be charged on a sliding fee scale.
- You may qualify for Medicaid for yourself or your family. The care is virtually free, but the trick is to find a doctor willing to take on one more Medicaid patient and the razor-thin reimbursements that go with it.
- The 9 Health Fair offers low cost blood screenings as well as mammograms, tests for prostate cancer and many other services.
- Colorado’s Division of Insurance also can help.
IF YOU NEED PRESCRIBED MEDICINES:
- Ask your doctor if he can provide free samples. Ask him to review all your medications to find less expensive alternatives, and make sure you aren’t duplicating anything.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can use a higher dosage pill and cut it in half; this is often less expensive.
- If your doctor says you can use a generic, try the many major grocery and drug store chains that offer $4 generic prescriptions.
- Get a free drug discount card from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and many cities and counties.
IF YOU NEED HEALTH INSURANCE:
- You may be able to get health insurance for your kids through the government’s Children’s Health Plan Plus; income limits may be higher than you think. There are also numerous locations you can visit in person.
- Don’t immediately reject the Cobra insurance offered by your employer when you quit or get laid off. It may seem really expensive, but it may be the only insurance you can get. Even if you think you are healthy, private insurers may decide that you have a pre-existing condition and refuse to cover you.
- Ask friends to find a good health insurance broker, who will figure out what you can afford and how to get it. (A bad broker puts you in the policy that pays him the highest commission.)
- If your Cobra coverage is expiring and you can’t find insurance, Colorado requires your Cobra carrier to offer you a conversion policy.
- If a broker can’t find you insurance, try CoverColorado, the state’s last-ditch insurance plan for people who are denied health insurance.
CHANGE YOUR UNHEALTHY HABITS:
- Try to stay healthy so you can avoid going to the doctor at all. Some 90 percent of early deaths could be eliminated if people did just five things: Wear seat belts when in a car and helmets when biking; stay trim by exercising and reducing calories; quit smoking; quit drinking to excess; and control high blood pressure. That’s according to a study in the New York Journal of Medicine in 1993.
- Some 74 percent of health costs are from four conditions: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Diabetes, obesity and some kinds of cancer are largely preventable. You can cut your chances of getting these diseases by eating healthy, exercising, and quitting smoking. If you have one of these diseases, find a doctor or clinic that will make sure you get your preventive care and don’t end up in the emergency room.
- Colorado’s state government will help you quit smoking. Help is available online or at 1-800-quit-now.