Other helpful blogs for self-pay patients

I like to think that I’ve created a ‘one-stop source’ of information, commentary, and news that is helpful to self-pay patients, a category that includes the uninsured, those with high-deductible health insurance plans, and anybody else who finds themselves paying directly for some or all of their medical care.

But I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention that there are a couple of other sites out there that provide some helpful information as well and that are geared towards similar audiences. I’ve mentioned one of them several times in the past, the site Healthcare for Less run by Michelle Katz. Her focus is on helping people get the best medical care for their money and avoiding debt related to treatment, which is very much in line with The Self-Pay Patient’s goals. Here’s one post she recently had:

Having Health Insurance Does Not Mean You’re Completely Covered: Avoid the Surprise that Might Cost You in the End

Never assume anything is covered when buying insurance. For example, if your policy says “doctor’s visits are covered 100%” here are SOME questions you need to ask: 

-What type of doctor does that cover?
-What does that 100% does entail: diagnostic visits, routine visit?
-Is the doctor’s facility that he/she is practicing at covered?
-Are the labs he/she uses covered during that visit (and if the labs are sent out, is that facility covered)?
-Is there a limit to how many doctor’s visits per year are covered?

When you get your answer, always take copious notes! Record the date, time, whom you spoke with and a summary of what they said. Have that person point out the benefit to you in your insurance benefits packet so you have something to refer in case of a discrepancy in the future

Very helpful information!

Another site that I’ve found to be informative is the Frugal Nurse. The bio page states that it is run by a nurse with 30 years of experience in healthcare, and is an “attempt to be a frugal healthcare consumer and find reliable sources of information to guide my decisions regarding my health and my family’s health.”

Here are some excerpts from a post in November that show the sort of helpful insights available on the Frugal Nurse blog:

Prescription drug shortages: Or “Levothyroxine costs how much?”

Last week I went into our local Costco to pick up my husband’s 90-day supply of levothyroxine, a generic thyroid replacement medication.

He has been taking levothyroxine every day for three years… [a]nd he will need to continue taking it every day for the rest of his life.

Luckily, a three-month supply only costs us about $18 (and that’s without prescription drug coverage).

So imagine my surprise when the pharmacy clerk asked for $45.69!

…I declined filling that prescription (yes, you can do that and not be charged) because I wanted to understand why levothyroxine had suddenly more than doubled in price. Was it just at Costco, or was it everywhere?

First I went to the Food and Drug Administration’s website. They keep an updated list of all current drug shortages. I found out there was a shortage of a particular brand name of levothyroxine, Levoxyl (Pfizer). The drug is backordered and will not be available until 2014…

Doing a little more research, I discovered that another brand-name levothyroxine, Levothyroid (Forest), has also been recalled. Unlike Pfizer, Forest Pharmaceuticals has simply decided to discontinue making the drug altogether.

With two brand-name drugs no longer available, the cost of other thyroid drugs, including generic, has skyrocketed (as I found out).

Those of us buying thyroid medication are not the only ones who have experienced this problem. Two common antibiotics, doxycycline and tetracycline, have been in short supply or not available at all. Prescriptions of these generics that used to cost under $10 are now costing between $50 and $150. Or doctors are being forced to prescribe new, more expensive antibiotics when just a few months ago a cheaper generic would have been available…

Many of us don’t have drug coverage. Of course, Obamacare mandates that all new insurance plans have some form of prescription drug coverage, but that could take a number of forms. You might have a co-pay; about $25 for a generic and $50 for a name-brand drug. Or, you might get a discount, with the price going towards your deductible (your really, really high deductible).

So high costs of prescription drugs, especially when unexpected, will still be a problem…

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it pays to shop around for the best price. Most large pharmacies, such as Costco, will let you do an online price search. Or you can call. Ask about discounts for mail order or 90-day supplies.

If a medication suddenly jumps in price, ask the pharmacist if he or she knows why. Is there a shortage? How long is it likely to last? Can you wait to fill your prescription?

I chose to transfer my husband’s prescription to Walmart’s $4 Prescription Program. A 90-day supply of his levothyroxine will only cost $10 and it will be delivered by mail. No more waiting in line at Costco—bonus!

The Frugal Nurse blog also offers some helpful information on health in general, for example some recent posts included information on flu season, first aid for hypothermia, and whether healthy adults need vitamin supplements.

Another terrific site to follow is the NeedyMeds blog. I’ve featured NeedyMeds* a couple of times before, it’s a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping patients learn about and access the patient assistance programs that just about every pharmaceutical company offers to people who struggle with drug costs.

Their blog includes some great information and commentary as well, usually about prescription drug issues but also addressing other areas. For example, here’s a few excerpts from a recent post on free and low-cost clinics:

One of the most popular sections of the NeedyMeds website is our listing of Free, Low-Cost, and Sliding-Scale clinics. As health care has become more and more expensive, the need for low-cost health care has increased…

We list three different types of clinics on NeedyMeds.org. The first are free clinics which are of no cost to the patient (self explanatory). The second are low-cost clinics which usually have a low flat-fee for all patients or types of visit. The third are sliding-scale clinics. The price for these clinics is based on the patient’s ability to pay…

Each clinic offers a different variety of services. Many clinics are just medical clinics and do not offer any other services, and there are also many strictly-dental clinics. There are plenty of clinics, however, that offer a wide array of services. Some services include women’s health, mental health, family planning, STD testing, vision, pediatrics, podiatry and pharmacy services among others… 

We list over 13,000 clinics on NeedyMeds, making it very easy to find one near you…

It’s obviously not my intent to drive away my readers to other sites, but I do hope that from time to time you will check out what these other blogs offer, I do think they offer information that can be extremely valuable to self-pay patients.

 
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2 Responses to Other helpful blogs for self-pay patients

  1. Jim Johnson says:

    Sean–
    I just recently read you book on kindle and I am scouring it today for the highlights. I’m looking to find insurance for my previous employee (my wife) of my small business (ie, 2 people). Horizon BCBS NJ is no longer offering small group coverage (most of NJ insurers as well) so I’m in the market for her. I’m on a medicare adv plan.
    We’ve had high deductible policies for years and have saved a great deal or at least broken even some years compared to an upscale PPO plan.
    I’m quite interested in the ministry based plans–not that I’m terribly religious but they represent real savings (esp. if you know how to shop for price as described in your book).
    In addition, they are more like insurance the way it was begun by Ben Franklin (fire insurance with attached fire company); an association of responsible people. They tell me that form still works in spite of government and lawyers turning everything into a contractual/regulatory/rule-based fiasco.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jim J in NJ

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