With unemployment hovering at nine percent, credit and stock markets imploding and the cost of living rising, people are looking to cut their own spending and save money in every way imaginable. Health care isn’t cheap, but it’s even more costly to go without it, in case of an accident or when illness strikes. Many people forgo medication and doctor’s visits, and even skip preventive health care services due to financial strain. The good news is there are a growing number of companies looking to change the health care game by empowering consumers with cost-effective ways to manage their health care needs. Here are five low-cost health care supports and services you can find online.
5 Tips for saving money on health care
Take a bite out of dental care costs
Dental disease can lead to other life-threatening conditions including heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. In addition, dental symptoms can serve as an early warning sign for other life-threatening conditions. If you don’t have dental insurance, you can join Brighter.com for free for one month, or pay a small fee for a one-year plan and have access to much lower pre-negotiated prices with dentists nationwide.
“Ignoring dental care is one of the biggest mistakes people make,” warns Tina Pang Mayer, senior vice president at Jobson Healthcare Information, VP at Thomson Healthcare and former GM of Yahoo! Health. “Routine teeth cleaning and dental checkups are keys to good health and detecting potential diseases. You can find many treatment options at a minimal cost and in the long run, you may save both your health and your wallet.”
Get a free health consultation
Optimize your doctor’s visits by doing your own research and playing an active role in arriving at a proper diagnosis and treatment plan — and save money by cutting down on the time and number of repeat visits. HealthTap.com offers crowdsourced health advice and community-building, using doctors and caregivers who share expert information and answer questions. Currently they are welcoming pregnant women and new moms, with additional coverage areas opening soon. If you have an ongoing disease or condition, or care for someone who des, you can sign up free for HopefulCircle.org, an online community with information, tools and support for patients, caregivers, organizations and health care professionals.
“Many times, advice from a trusted source, along with support from other people who share your condition, can provide more targeted and tailored advice and recommendations than what a medical textbook can provide,” adds Mayer.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle
A good way to help prevent illness and injury is to stay healthy and fit. If you’re a technophile or simply need a convenient way to track your exercise and diet, check out apps like Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal (free) and Couch to 5K ($2.99). Sleep is essential for optimal health and getting enough can be a challenge, but apps like Sleep Cycle ($0.99) can help you develop healthy sleep habits. Pregnant? Even more reason to mind your health. Download BabyBump Pregnancy Pro ($3.99) to track your pregnancy and doctor visits as well as join a community of moms-to-be sharing helpful pregnancy tips and tricks.
“The most low-cost thing people can do to control health expenses is to live a healthy lifestyle, thereby preventing many problems before they occur,” suggests Mayer. “People should take control of their own health by tracking their activity, proactively getting on a reasonable exercise program and monitoring their nutrition and food intake. Healthier choices lead to healthier people.”
Don’t wait to see a doc
If you really need to see a doctor now, don’t wait — try ZocDoc.com. This site allows you to scan doctors by specialty, view first-available appointments and schedule online for free. They have tons of appointments available in 10 cities nationwide, with more being added all the time.
“Many times, urgent symptoms appear without warning, including hives and rashes, extreme pain, blocked ears, or other symptoms,” says Mayer. “When you have an urgent problem, you need to find a doctor quickly and sometimes short-notice appointments, especially for doctors that specialize in specific areas, can be difficult to find. Online scheduling may be the quickest way to find an immediate appointment for the right kind of doctor in your area.”
Be proactive and prevent
If you do have health insurance, be sure to track your deductible status and take advantage of all the no co-pay or no-deductible preventive health care services in your plan, which you and your employer have already paid for through your premiums each year. You can track all of this and more for free using Simplee.com. Simplee offers the most comprehensive views and tools available for health care expense management and even sends you email reminders to take advantage of all the preventive care options in your current policy.
“Employer-backed health benefits and services are still really good,” says Mayer. “Often, people are so busy they don’t have the time to devote to finding out what their health care plan offers. For instance, many policies have proactive care for skin, back pain, exercise and diet programs, as well as a host of other programs. By using an online service that automatically tracks this information and sends you reminders, you can benefit from a host of services that may lead to a healthier and happier life.”
Remember, even though you are focused on cutting costs and maximizing your budget in these tough times, often savvy, well-educated health care investments will pay off in the long-run. And if you can’t work because of illness, you won’t be able to bring home a paycheck to care for your family — and you certainly won’t experience the quality of life you deserve.