Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Urgent Care--Home Sweet Home!

The running joke is that I should get a frequent visitor punch card for urgent care since it seems like we are taking a kid there so often that they often recognize us by name when we walk in the door. Now part of that could be the "small town" of it all, or it could just mean that we visit the office more often than your typical family.

Today I packed up Nick and we headed out after him being absolutely miserable the past few days. Of course they couldn't find anything wrong with him, which means we paid our co-pay and were shoved out the door, but as a parent, you second guess yourself all the time. Do you want your name to be the one who ends up in the paper because the kid was sick for 3 days before going to the Dr only to find out that they had some rare bacterial infection that spreads like wildfire and infected all of west MI? Nope, I think not, so off to urgent care we went!

Medical expenses. Ugh. Just a part of life and you have to pay them. But there are ways to minimize the costs and try and manage them as best you can.

1. Do you have flex spending accounts at work? You can set aside pre-tax dollars and use that money towards co-pays, prescriptions and other things. I say "other things" because the new healthcare bill is going to impact flex accounts quite a bit. What's true today might not be true this next plan year, so I am sticking with it for now. We set aside a nice chunk of change and base it on what we used last year. Unfortunately this year we budgeted way too low and my account is already empty in May and the new plan year doesn't start until September 1.

2. What's your co-pay? We pay a $10 co-pay for regular Dr visits and urgent care visits, so we tend to go that route first. Our highest co-pay is for the emergency room, so we almost never go there. If we do end up there, it's because urgent care sent us there.

3. Ask for generic! Typically if you need a prescription, they'll ask, "Do you have insurance?" Yes, I do, but don't ASSUME that I have rock star prescription coverage! I always ask if there is a generic drug that we can use and if it doesn't work, then and only then will we go for a brand name drug.

4. Ask for samples. When I was starting on beta blockers for my migraines, I asked if the Dr had samples around before filling my prescriptions. He was tweaking the dose a bit the first few months, so I hated the idea of paying for something and tossing it because I needed a different dose.

5. Check for prescription drug programs. Here are just a few that I am aware of in west MI:
Meijer free antibiotics, prenatal vitamins and Metformin
Sam's Club $4 Generics (no membership required)
Target $4/30day, $10/90day Generic Program
Wal-Mart $4/30day, $10/90day Generic Program
Family Fare $4/30day, $10/90day
D&W $4/30day, $10/90day
K-Mart $5/$10/$15/$25 Program

6. Visit the manufacturer's website for the prescriptions you take most often. The medication I take for my breakthrough migraines works out to $4/pill when I get it filled, so that's $40 for 10 pills and that's just my cost! YIKES! So I went to the website of the drug and printed out coupons for $20 off my next refill. When Nicholas was taking Prevacid as a baby, we registered on their website for a card that gave us $20 off each prescription as well. Definitely worth the time!

7. Mail order options. Do you have this available through your prescription plan coverage? Ours used to be that we paid 1 copay and got 3 months of medication, but it was changed this last plan year that we pay 2 copays and get 3 months of medication. So it's a "free" month basically. If it's a medication that you take daily and fill constantly, the savings add up and the convenience of having it mailed right to your house can't be beat!