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Want to Save on Medical Bills? Stay Healthy

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Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: Last week, my 5-year-old fell off her bike right on her face. She was wearing a helmet, but what she needed was a mouthguard. She knocked one of her front teeth into a position that I haven't seen outside of a pamphlet for donations to fix cleft palates. I found that after-hours dentists are pretty nonexistent. It was a baby tooth, but my kids get their teeth late, so if she lost it, we were looking at a few years with a gap, and I didn't know if that would affect future spacing with permanent teeth. So I turned her tooth around and got it in position myself.

mom and daughter exercise
Let me say, I would choose multiple kids vomiting on me over doing that again. It did make me think about ways to save on medical and dental bills, though. The first one is: STAY HEALTHY. Exercise, eat right, stay in a reasonable weight range, brush well and floss, don't smoke, etc. -- stuff we all know, of course, but sometimes forget. Make sure your kids eat right and get enough sleep. In my family, if my kids feel like they are coming down with something and they can get a couple of extra hours of sleep, they can usually kick the cold before it ever settles in. 

Next, get regular checkups. That means yearly physicals, and (my dentist says) twice-yearly dental checkups. The cost of those exams is nothing compared to the benefit of nipping something in the bud, or the cost associated with a more advanced medical problem. 

Last, decide what you are able to treat at home (apparently, for me, that means advanced dental problems). Keep a reasonable supply of treatment options at home: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin) for infants, children and adults (for fevers and pain); hot and cold packs; antibiotic cream; Band-Aids of all sizes, gauze pads and a couple of ACE Bandages for first aid; a humidifier; saline drops for stuffy noses; honey for coughs (not for babies under 1 year of age, though); a eucalyptus rub to clear chest and nasal congestion for colds and flu; antifungal and hydrocortisone creams for rashes; Pedialyte, Gatorade and low-sodium chicken broth to hydrate after intestinal distress. 

Educate yourself about your treatment options and when to call your doctor. If you don't know, ask at your next well-child visit. If ever in doubt, call. Lots of doctors now use e-mail to get back to patients quickly about their concerns; find out if yours does. 

I'm hoping for a healthy upcoming school year, but I'm stocking my medicine cabinet just in case.

next: Coconut Water: Myth or Miracle?
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
MT August 15, 2010, 7:14 PM

Patients who go out of network to obtain care learn the hard way that medical bills for identical services can vary wildly. For instance, a study conducted by CareCore National in 2009 found that for an MRI of the brain, prices charged by providers varied by 325% (from a low of $1,000 to a high of $4,250) and a CT of the abdomen varied by 950% (from a low of $300 to a high of $3,125). Similar variations are found across nearly all procedures and specialties.

The lack of transparency in heath care, combined with the push by many providers to maximize their revenue on the backs of out of network patients and the uninsured has created a cost crisis in America. Unfortunately, even with health care reform, this problem is only going to grow larger as businesses and insurers scale back benefits and shift more of the cost to consumers and employees.

Services like offer consumers the same negotiation services that large insurers and self-insured corporations use, leveling the playing field for consumers, by working with physician offices, hospitals and clinics to reduce medical bills to more affordable levels.

thomas sabo charms December 20, 2010, 5:00 PM

Thanks for your time for another great post. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information. My best wishes, Latoya.

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