How to Save on Medical Care Costs

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It’s flu season – surprise! I got knocked out pretty badly after Christmas, and it took a whole month to get back up to speed. Toward the end, I finally acquiesced and saw a doctor (exposing myself to even worse bugs, being told to stop running for a week, and feeling better before I even picked up the prescription.. but still a $40 co-pay lighter. Ugh.) There are a lot of ways to cut medical costs stemming from colds, injuries, and even chronic illnesses, including ways to make money with your body (that don’t include working on a corner.)

  • If you’re sick or experiencing a minor injury, I’d check out a CVS Minute Clinic or MedExpress before heading to the doc or ER without health insurance.
  • Clinical trials – I’ve already made $40 this month from attempting to qualify for one study (I wasn’t eligible, but got paid anyway) and have two more scheduled. I imagine it would be a great way to get treatment for conditions or even to get on things like birth control (there are several studies going on now about Mirena, but since I already have one, I’m ineligible. They may cover the cost of the implantation, but I’m not sure.) I’m on a waiting list right now to study the effects of running with minimalist shoes – this one doesn’t have compensation, but you do get a free pair of barefoot shoes, so I hope they get funding 🙂 Of course, this isn’t going to be for everyone, and you should only sign up for the studies you feel comfortable with (which might only be ones that include motion studies, x-rays, or blood draws.) Check your local research hospital or university med school, find federally funded studies on, or search private facilities on
  • Pay your co-pay at the time of service to avoid any processing/billing fees. If they don’t advertise that they charge these fees, pay up front anyway and ask for a discount. It’s worth a shot – at the end of the day, it saves them some money. And if it’s feasible, try paying your balance in cash – the office won’t have to pay the debit/credit card company the 2-4% fee or wait for a check to clear, and they might give you a credit for the difference.
  • When visiting a doctor’s office, if it’s a collaborative practice, try setting appointments with nurse practitioner’s or physician’s assistants.
  • Planned Parenthood is great for discount contraceptives (including condoms and the pill, which usually runs around $25 for a month’s supply,) and they also offer affordable sexual health services for men and women. I’ve been treated wonderfully by PP in the past, and their sliding scale meant that I paid nothing or very little for visits with them early in my college career.
  • If you’re a current college student, you’re probably already paying some kind of fee for the health services they provide. Take advantage of it, even if the reputation is less-than-stellar.
  • Check out local colleges for dental or optometry clinics.
  • Ask for drug samples or coupons from your doctor’s office. You could also check to see if the manufacturer of a prescription you take has a discount program.
  • SET UP AN HSA! This is especially good for someone like me who has so many dental issues going on. I maxed mine out knowing I would use it all up, and if I have to spend money on my teeth, I’d rather that money not be taxed if I can help it. In future years, while I may not max it, I’m still definitely going to have one. You can use it on some over-the-counter drugs, or even things like acupuncture and massage.
  • Get in shape and eat right. This is more of a preventative medicine thing, but seriously – eat like crap, feel like crap. Your body reacts to the things you put in it! (If you don’t agree with me, juice for a week, then turn around and eat fast food the next week. Tell me when you felt better.)

How do you save on health care?