Category Archives: Health and Money

More Prescription Tips That Save Your Wallet

The smartest thing you can do when it comes to your health and medical purchases is to be an informed individual. Here are a few prescription tips to help you stay on top of what is going on in the world of pharmaceuticals.

Be Inquisitive

It is your right to ask your doctor why he/she is prescribing a certain medication for you to take. Ask them about how the medication will help you, if you really need it, what side effects it might cause, your risk factors for taking it and/or drug interactions that may occur. Your local pharmacist is a better resource for drug information.

Research

Tell your doctor you want to think before starting a new medication. You can get reliable information online from the drug manufacturer’s website. Doing your own research can surpass anything your doctor can tell you about medications. Doctors are not pharmacists and most of them only know the basics; dosages and standard data about drugs.

Costs and Coverage

You need to know what a prescription is going to cost you with or without insurance and/or Medicare.  Start by learning about your insurance formulary list in order to determine costs for medications. You need to know if the medication being prescribed to you is covered by your insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. You might want to find out about free prescription cards to help offset expenses.

Other good rules of thumb for being smart about your prescription medications include:

  • Verify the dosage and make sure it is clear to you.
  • Ask for a print-out of the side effects and general drug information at your pharmacy.
  • Make sure to find out if there are any special instructions for taking your medication. This can include things like avoiding or eating certain foods with it, whether it causes drowsiness or if you need any vitamins or supplements while taking it.
  • If you have problems swallowing pills ask for a liquid form if available. You may be able to crush them if they are not time-released making them easier to take.
  • Ask about the proper storage and get expiration information on the medication(s) you take.
  • Find out if there is a generic to save money. You may also be able to request a higher dose and adjust your dosage appropriately to save money (Sometimes insurance coverage will cover more for larger dosages of certain medications.).
  • Buying in bulk if/when you can might be a good way to save money.

You reserve the right to choose whether or not you take certain medications. Barring a life-threatening disease that requires medication, you have options. It is wise to be an informed patient and consumer for your health, quality of life and to save money.

5 Tips For Paying Off Large Hospital Bills

A majority of Americans are unable to pay for health insurance or obtain health insurance through any means. Sadly, this can often lead to expensive hospital bills that cause severe debt and worry. Paying off those bills for good doesn’t have to be such a hassle. It is absolutely possible to pay them off with proper budgeting. These five hospital bill tips will get you on the right track.

Look into A Hospitals Payment Plans

Hospitals are much more forgiving than credit card companies. This is good news for you. Hospitals may charge interest, but many don’t, especially if you are already a low-income patient. They just expect you to pay it off in a timely manner. For this reason, you can set up payment plans to help knock off the costs. Woohoo!

Negotiate Your Costs

It is possible to negotiate with a hospital for the services rendered. This is because there is a huge markup on the medical treatments. Everything from medication injections to exams cost many times more than what they are “worth.” Talk to people individually about reducing the total cost of each item on your bill. Don’t think it was fair for that shot of morphine to cost you $220? Convince someone to give you a deduction on the cost.

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The Best Free Health and Fitness Apps

The other week we wrote a post on the top healthy habits for a longer life, and today we’ll review the list of healthy habits and recommend our favorite FREE apps that will help you keep up with your new life.  We hope you enjoy!

1. SLEEP ON IT

Sleep On It is a great app for tracking sleep habits and quality of sleep. You can also record other health habits such as caffeine or alcohol intake that might affect your sleeping pattern, which could be related to how much sleep you had.  To use the app, simply push the button when you go to sleep and wake up to insight into your slumber.

Availability: iPhone, iPod touch or iPad

Per Tip #1:  Get at least 6-8 hours of sleep

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10 Questions To Ask During Open Enrollmenent

If you’re like most Americans, you have probably put off worrying about open enrollment until closer to the deadline.  Open enrollment is an intimidating and timely process, so it’s understandable if you’ve chosen to postpone the inevitable.

Problem with this strategy, however, is that apart from the unneccesary stress, it doesn’t allow for enough time to review your medical history, carefully analyze the details of the health plans  and make sense of all the health insurance jargon.  Luckily, many of you still have time to tackle open enrollment, but before you dive in, ask yourself these 10 questions for a smoother process:

1. Have my benefits changed? 

2. What will this plan cost?

  • What is the monthly premium, co-pays, deducibles and out-of-pocket costs?
  • What happens if I go out-of-network?

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Forgetting Alzheimer’s

I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed Alzheimer’s.

My grandmother had been diagnosed while she and my grandfather resided in Florida.  I hadn’t seen the two of them for some time, so when I heard that they were coming to visit my family in CA, I couldn’t wait to see their smiling faces.  The excitement, however, quickly came to a halt a few minutes after their arrival.  Suffice it to say that my grandmother was no longer the same;  her words were jumbled and it was clear that she no longer recognized my face.  Her eyes were still a beautiful light blue, but no longer sparkled as they once did.  It would be a few short years until she passed.

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Prevention is Key as Healthcare Costs Rise

As healthcare costs continue to rise, businesses are looking for solutions to keep expenses down.

This news article points out that healthcare costs rose 7.4 percent this year and are expected to rise another 7.2 percent in 2012, more than twice the rate of inflation.

Some of that cost is being transferred to employees. In a June survey of employers, over half of the respondents indicated they planned to increase employee contributions to healthcare benefits next year.

However, employers are also looking to prevention as part of the cost-saving puzzle, and with good reason. The National Business Group on Health, a non-profit business association that represents over 300 large businesses, has a great article on the topic, which presents the “business case” for prevention.

Each year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with chronic diseases that are preventable through modifiable behaviors and appropriate medical care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately 33 percent of all deaths in the United States are attributable to just three modifiable health behaviors: smoking, physical inactivity, and poor eating habits. According to the the NBGH article:

Chronic diseases are the primary drivers of direct healthcare costs. In fact, researchers estimate that 75% of all healthcare costs directly stem from preventable chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Preventive services offer value and can make a tremendous difference in your overall health and well-being. Be sure to take advantage of preventative services offered by your healthcare provider.

Cake Health makes it easy to understand and manage your health care costs. We show you how much you’re paying and how you might be able to save money.

Young Adults Struggle to Get Needed Care

A recent study has reported that the number of U.S. families struggling to pay medical bills and debt is growing; so much in fact that last year 45% of young adults ages 19-29 struggled to get the health care they needed.  This means around 5/10 youth were unable to fill a prescription, go to the doctor when they were sick, or skipped a test, treatment or follow-up visit when needed.

Exhibit ES-3. The Number of Adults Without Insurance, Forgoing Health Care Because of Cost, and Paying Large Shares of Their Income on Health Care Has Increased 2001-2010

Adults ages 19–64

2001

2005

2010

In the past 12 months:
Uninsured any time during the year

24%

38 million

28%

48 million

28%

52 million

Any bill problem or medical debt*

____

34%

58 million

40%

73 million

Any cost-related access problem*

29%

47 million

37%

64 million

41%

75 million

Spent 10% or more of household income on premiums*

11%

10 million

14%

14 million

15%

14 million

Spent 10% or more of household income on premiums and total out-of-pocket costs*

21%

31 million

23%

35 million

32%

49 million

Any of the above

____

62%

107 million

67%

123 million

**http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/Files/Publications/Fund%20Report/2011/Mar/1486_Collins_help_on_the_horizon_2010_biennial_survey_report_FINAL_v2.pdf

According to the 2010 Commonwealth Fund’s Biennial Health Insurance Survey, these medical bill problems are leading to further issues such as youth not being able to pay for necessities such as food, heat, rent, incurring credit card debt or even declaring bankruptcy.

“Of those with medical bill problems or medical debt, one-third had to deplete their savings to pay their bills and one in five had to take on credit card debt,” the study reports.

Luckily, however, there’s still hope; under the Affordable Care Act thousands of young adults have made the decision to stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 25.  And it’s only getting better for this demographic; in 2012, college health plans will have to follow most of the same rules that private individual market health plans now face under the Affordable Care Act, meaning no more lifetime coverage limits and rescission and phasing out annual limits.  In addition, 2014 will bring extended Medicaid coverage to all adults with incomes below 133% of the poverty level, reaching an estimated 7.2 million young adults without health insurance.

Finally, in the upcoming years state health insurance exchanges will help low income young adults afford health care by offering comprehensive private health insurance with will include maternity benefits and subsidies.

“In 2014 nearly all young adults will have access to the comprehensive and affordable health insurance they need, allowing them to pursue their life and career goals without the worry that one serious illness or accident could derail their future plans,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis.

With these mandates it is safe to say that this burdened demographic will face less difficulty in the near future.

*TWEETABLES*

**Shout out to Brittney Roberts for guessing the correct percentage (around 50%) of young adults unable to afford needed care via our Facebook questionnaire**

An Issue That Continues To Grow

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”  -Tony Robbins

In 2011, the issue of obesity is only growing larger, along with those affected by the disease.  In fact, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health has just reported that in the last 15 years, adult obesity rates have nearly doubled in 17 states. 

“Two decades ago, not a single state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Now they all do,” the report states.

Take away the emotional and physical toll that this disease is playing on its’ victims, there is no denying the financial problems that it is bringing to health care.

“[We] need to be addressing those environmental and those policy factors, but at the same time, [we] need to be motivating the country,” Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health states.

An issue that was once low on the priority list, is on its way up, and fast.  So what’s the solution, many have wondered?  Well, the first step is for us to realize that there is no easy solution.  The recent report agrees that we need a wide-net of solutions, including “boosting physical activity in schools, encouraging adults to get out and exercise, broadening access to affordable healthy foods and use of “pricing strategies” to encourage Americans to make better food choices.”

Above all, our society must learn how to take control of our own health.  We are the ones who choose Mad Men over spin class and Big Macs over spinach.  If we refuse to change these daily habits that are negatively impacting our own life, we will soon be left without one.

If you suffer from the above condition or a chronic illness, let us help you manage your costs so that you can focus on what’s important: your health.

*TWEETABLES*

To read the full report, visit http://healthyamericans.org/reports/obesity2011/

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Medical Bill Overcharges? How to Spot and Challenge Errors

This post was written by CakeHealth and published by Mint Life, the personal finance blog of Mint.com.

“Getting overcharged on a medical bill? Won’t happen to me.” Sure it’s easy to ignore, but with eight out of 10 medical bills containing errors (according to Medical Billing Advocates of America), the odds are really stacked against you. You are getting inaccurate bills, and if you haven’t yet, you likely will.

On top of this, hospitals are getting more aggressive and waste little time sending people to collections or filing liens against them for outstanding medical bills. The Federal Reserve reported in December that medical bills account for over half of all debts in collection. If that happens, your credit score could be hurt.

Also, did you know there is a lifetime cap on most insurance plans? It is often limited to $500,000 – $1 million per person, which sounds hefty enough, however continuous treatment in a hospital for several days can pile into hundreds of thousands of dollars, quickly eating through this limit.

To protect your health and your wallet, here are four steps to identify medical billing errors, and three steps to fight them: Continue reading

Health and Money: 11 Tips to Maximize Your Healthcare Deductions for 2010

This post was written by CakeHealth and published by Mint Life, the personal finance blog of Mint.com.

With healthcare costs rising, and employers passing more of the burden on to each one of us, out of pocket costs are rising…and that is a trend that will continue to rise.  The good news is that there is a way to ease the burden if you are taking on a lot of expenses yourself.   It’s time to check your bills and insurance claims to see what you did this year, and how much of it came out of your own pocket.  Whether you are covered by your employer or are one of the growing many who are opting to get individual coverage that is reimbursed by your employer, use these tips to see what deductions you may be able to take.  You might be surprised. Continue reading

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