Managing the High Cost of Medical Care

Jan Gambino Health Guide

    Like many parents, I quit my job to take care of my refluxer at a time when her medical expenses were high. Needless to say, this combination of factors put a huge strain on the family budget. On top of co-pays for office visits and prescriptions, there were many out-of-pocket expenses such as wedges, formula and supplies.


    While these ideas may not be equivalent to a paycheck, every little bit helps! Here are my tips for saving money on medical expenses:


    • Call the manufacturer's consumer hotline to find out about coupons, rebates and special programs.
    • Go online to the manufacturer's Web site. Many pharmaceutical companies offer rebates or downloadable coupons for prescriptions, even if you have insurance.
    • Join the manufacturer's consumer club to receive ongoing announcements of new rebates and coupons.
    • When filling a new prescription, ask for a 2 to 3 day supply before buying the entire 30-day supply. If the medication is not tolerated, you won't be stuck with a lot of expensive medication that cannot be used or returned.
    • See if your insurance policy has a mail order prescription service for long-term medications that you know you will need. Often the mail order service allows you to get a 3-month supply for one co-pay.
    • Ask the doctor for advice on cutting costs such as using generics or splitting a pill. The doctor may be able to supply you with samples so you can try the medication before filling the prescription.
    • Ask the doctor for samples of over the counter medications such as pain relievers and antacids. The samples are perfect for sending to daycare or for travel. Often the sample will have a coupon inside for future savings.


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    • If you have to buy formula, you know the prices range from expensive to really extraordinarily expensive so buy the smallest amount possible at first.
    • See if your medical insurance will pay for special formula. It may be called Medical Formula or Medical Food and require a prescription or a letter from the doctor.
    • Thickeners come in a large canister and cannot be returned. Again, see if the doctor or the pharmacy has a sample.
    • Ask the doctor for samples of formula and coupons.


    Positioning devices:

    • Before investing in a wedge, try a home-made version first. You need to make sure your little refluxer won't have a panic attack if the head of the bed is elevated before you buy the wedge.
    • See if a hand-me-down wedge is available from a friend, eBay or on a patient support Web site such as
    • Ask the doctor to write a prescription for the wedge and see if the insurance company will pay for it.
    • Call the insurance company and ask them if they will pay for a particular brand of wedge if the doctor writes a prescription. You might need to have a plan for Durable Medical Equipment to qualify for coverage.


    Health Insurance:

    • A Health Care Spending Account allows you to set aside money before taxes to pay for medical expenses. The account may allow reimbursement for a positioning device or special formula that isn't covered by the health insurance.
    • See if you qualify for the medical deduction on your tax returns.
    • Compare insurance options when you renew your coverage. Perhaps you need a different kind of insurance policy now that you have a child with health issues. The high deductible and sparse prescription coverage may have been just fine before kids. Now you may find that a PPO or HMO offers similar services but with more reasonable co pays.
    • Each state has a Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP. Families without insurance or with certain income guidelines may qualify for free or very low cost health insurance with coverage for everything from medical care, prescriptions, hospitalization and even dental care. Check with the local health department in your city or county or contact the state health department for information.



Published On: July 30, 2007