Tips For Saving Money When You Have To Pay A Doctor Without Insurance
- For routine problems such as cuts, broken bones, sore throats and ear aches, go to a general practitioner rather than a specialist.
- Primary-care doctors are able to treat the vast majority of illnesses at a more affordable rate than specialists.
- A primary-care doctor can always refer you to a specialist if necessary.
- Seek advice from your doctor whenever possible by telephone or e-mail. Many doctors are happy to answer questions and provide advice over the phone or by e-mail. This can save on unnecessary visits. (If the doctor balks at too many calls, offer to pay for his or her time -- which should be much less than the charge for a visit.)
- Don't be shy about discussing your financial situation honestly. Your doctor may be willing to reduce the fee and/or wait for part or all of the fee or see you without charge. According to a Harris Interactive poll, more than 60% of people who negotiate their medical bills get discounts. You won't know if you can get a discount unless you ask.
- Avoid unnecessary lab tests. When the doctor recommends tests, ask whether the test is necessary -- particularly if you had the same test recently. Many doctors practice "defensive medicine" -- they order more tests than necessary in order to avoid law suits, or because it is local custom. Also note that less expensive do-it-yourself tests are available for simple procedures.
- If your doctor won't provide the care you need at a price you can afford, contact a physician referral service. For example, the chapter of the American Medical Association in your state may have a referral service. It may be able to give you the names of doctors who are willing to provide some uncompensated health care. The state medical association is usually located in the state capital. It is generally named for the state. For example, the Kansas Medical Association.
- For care that doesn't relate to your life-changing condition, consider seeing a Nurse Practitioner or a Physicians Assistant. They are less expensive than a doctor. There is a general trend to extend prescription writing powers to a growing range of non-physicians. Contact your state's Department of Aging for help in determining who other than a doctor can prescribe the medications you need. For a list of state Departments of Aging, see: http://retireplan.about.com/cs/retirement/a/aging_agencies.htm
- If you work on an hourly basis, set your appointment for the doctor's first appointment in the morning or just after lunch. Doctors usually start such appointments on time so you will be away from work for the minimal amount of time. If you have an appointment at a different time, call before leaving work to see if the doctor is running on schedule.
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