Many of us run to the doctor without thinking about cost…especially if our plan has a copay for office visits. However insurance plans are covering less of those visits and if you have an HSA, you are paying the cost of that visit until you get through your deductible.
What should you think about before a visit to the doctor?
Step 1- (for the attorneys) If you are have an injury or symptom that seems life or limb threatening, GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM!
Step 2- Several insurance companies have a 1-800 Nurseline. It is like having a sister-in-law who is a nurse (only she/he does not get mad if you call them at 3am). CALL THE NURSE before you go to the doctor. These nurses can answer your questions, recommend treatment, and give you things to watch out for that may signal a more serious condition. They were invaluable when we had our children. One Sunday morning my 12 month old son somehow reached my coffee mug and turned it over, spilling hot coffee all over him and his sleeper. I had burned my son and I was FREAKING OUT! As I was about to run him to the ER, I stopped and called the nurse (with him screaming in the background). She asked me some key questions and helped calm my nerves. She assured me he would be fine and gave me a couple of symptoms to watch out for. That phone call saved me $1000 and 4 hours in the ER on a Sunday morning.
Step 3- Your pharmacist is the most under-utilized professional in the medical field. Your pharmacist probably knows more about your medications and their interactions that your doctor…and they give advice for free. If you have the usual seasonal allergies, cold, fever, etc. you can see your pharmacist (without an appointment) and they can give you the appropriate OTC medicines to take.
Step 4- Ever heard of a Nurse Practitioner? NPs can even write prescriptions! If you visit a “minute clinic” or urgent care center, you have probably seen a nurse practitioner. Some minute clinics even post their prices right on the wall so you can see how much the visit will cost…and it is even cheaper if you have insurance. I had a great experience with the local minute clinic and highly recommend them. Unlike my last trip to my doctor’s office, I did not need an appointment, did not sit in a waiting room full of sick people, did not have to see three people before meeting with my doctor only to have my doctor spend 5 – 7 minutes with me, to then get hassled for payment on the way out the door…then leave and wait an hour on a $50+ prescription. Minute clinics are usually open anytime the pharmacy is open. I will always use the minute clinic for routine care from now on.
We will cover what to ask to save $ on prescriptions on a different post.