Many of my friends avoid going to the doctor's office — they only make appointments as a last resort for their pain or sickness, citing high costs as reasons for waiting.
I'm not one to sacrifice my general health to save a few bucks, so I go to the doctor's office when I need to without delay. But I'm also smart when it comes to the financial aspects of it all. When it comes to visiting my doctor, I employ the following strategies when necessary to get the care I need while saving money where I can.
1. Make a call
Some doctors are comfortable diagnosing simple cases and prescribing medicine over the phone. My own primary care physician does this for certain cases, with patients who are just in need of minor attention. Pretty sure that's pink eye that you woke up with? Or have yet another pregnancy UTI? If you know what you need and your doctor is willing, skip the visit altogether and get service, minus the out-of-pocket fee of being seen.
2. Ask for advice
In addition to getting a doctor on the line, ask to speak with a nurse. If you need simple instructions of what to give an infant with a fever, what OTC is best for your recently-contracted poison ivy, or if those morning headaches you've been experiencing might be a sign of something else, ask. You may get what you need over the telephone and could skip a trip altogether.
3. Get your shots
If you have an insurance or government-based medical assistance plan, know what you can get for free as preventative care. For instance, my insurance plan allows for a free seasonal flu shot, a no-cost annual wellness exam, and no-co-pay immunizations, even as an adult. I take advantage of these services since they result in zero out-of-pocket expense for me. Additionally, this attention to preventative care helps me to avoid greater expenses (such as treatment for, say, the flu I might have contracted with no shot) down the road.
4. Double book
Are you and the toddler in your house sharing the same sneezing and sniffling symptoms? If two people in your family are in need of seemingly similar medical attention, consider making a singular appointment for one cost where both of you can be examined at the same time. Note: not all doctor's offices allow this — or some may insist on two co-payments in this situation for those with insurance — but it's worth inquiring about.
5. Pay cash
If you don't have insurance, be up front about it when you book an appointment. Your doctor's office may have lower payment costs for certain visits and simple procedures if you pay with cash. Inquire into such available policies with the office's front desk receptionist.
6. Skip the referral visit
If you know your medical issue will likely result in a referral to a specialist (think, for instance, of an ongoing skin issue that only a dermatologist would likely be able to treat), consider contacting your physician's office and asking for the referral, minus the initial visit. Some doctors who have routine in-house visits with their patients anyway may do this as a courtesy, again forgoing the in-office exam and thereby helping you avoid two charges with two different offices.
You don't have to shy away from a doctor's care if you need it. By examining these options for saving money, you can get the care you need — at a more affordable price.