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.

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12 thoughts on “How to Save on Doctor Visits”

I’m with you Kristen Holan…if I wanted a human’s opinion, I’d take a survey!

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Know when a doctor can and can’t be of any real help. If all you have are the sniffles a doctor’s just going to tell you to take an OTC med for it. I live in sinus valley. Unless I’m suffering from a full blown sinus infection or allergies so bad I can’t operate I don’t bother with a doctor because an OTC will do the job.

Also, make use of your pharmacists! People severely under utilize pharmacists. They do more than count pills. Where I work, our pharmacists even get additional education in conditions such as Diabetes. Don’t know what cold/allergy medicine is best for your symptoms? Talk to your pharmacist. Need to know what dose to give your baby? Talk to your pharmacist. They’ll generally know when something minor should be seen by a doctor.

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Be careful about flu shots. 90% of the elderly who rec’d this years shot GOT the flu, including both of my 75 year old parents. Cost them 4+ weeks of recovery time and my mom $$ in dr’s appts and meds for her respiratory system. Do your research.

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I understand why you would think that prescribing over the phone is irresponsible. However, I had a recurring condition for years that required the same meds every time. Why should I go in and pay for a visit when my doctor knows what’s wrong with me and what meds to prescribe? It all depends on your situation.

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most of this advice is completely unethical for a medical practitioner to provide….so pay the money like you would for any other service, don’t expect things to be free like scrips and referrals to be free because they become hours of my day!

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If your insurance has a wellness plan, where you get 1 free wellness checkup a year, be sure to use it and specify that when you schedule your appointment so it can be coded as a “wellness”. For example, if you have a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, thyroid issues, etc where you take medicine every day, usually the doctor will prescribe only 6 months of medicine and you have to go to the doctor twice a year in order to get your meds refilled. When you schedule one of those appointments make it your wellness exam (if your insurance participates) and you should have no copay. If you just call for a checkup for your condition they will code it under the condition and you will be responsible for the cost of the visit or copay depending on your coverage.

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Going along with asking for advice, find out if the employer who offers your health care plan (if you have one) offers a nurse hotline. Many employers do offer this because it saves them on expenses (they often bear a large portion of the insurance costs). If you have access to a nurse hotline, call them to see if they can help. Often I have called a line like this and explained my symptoms to a nurse practitioner. This has helped me to determine whether or not I should go to the doctor.

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I thought you were a doctor MD_lisa.

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MD = Maryland 🙂

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Ahh! That explains why doctors put the MD after their name!…lol 😉

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If all else fails, Dr.Pizzaz will be happy to help you. After all, “laughter is the best medicine”! 🙂

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We all need a little more Pizzaz in our lives!

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