Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ways to get Health Care at little or no cost (or get paid for going to the doctor)!

There are ways to get health care even when you are under insured or uninsured. Some will only work for you if you live close to a large city, but some can apply to anyone. These suggestions are not meant to encourage you to take any medications you are uncomfortable with.

1. I'd encourage anyone with children to look into your state's Children's Health Insurance Program. It can usually be found just by googling your state name and the phrase. In Pennsylvania, all children under age 19 are eligible. For those with lower incomes, there are no co pays. There is a sliding scale for fees as your income goes up.

2. Check out the websites of stores nearby to see if they offer deals on prescriptions. Some stores even offer free supplies of basic antibiotics, while others have a wide variety of medications for $4 or less. Even if you are not taking prescription meds, check to see if any of your over the counter medications are listed. Sometimes you can get a better deal that way.

3. Look into clinical trials and studies. I'm not suggesting that you or your children become guinea pigs for questionable medications. But there are many studies that need control subjects and will give a physical as part of the screening process. There are studies that are looking at medications that you may already be comfortable with, but a new aspect is being studied. Other studies may not involve taking medication at all, but simply charting symptoms.

For example, my children were part of a study that was looking at how/why colds get passed between family members and why some children develop ear infections while some did not. This meant that the kids got very good physicals and hearing tests and then were seen every other week by a nurse practitioner. If they did develop colds or ear infections, standard medications were provided to us at no charge. I just had to chart symptoms and call if someone in the house got a cold. In return, we had nurses and doctors who made house calls and the same medications that I would have given my children had we not been part of the study. Some studies even pay a stipend for your time and effort. We did another ear infection tracking study when Daniel was an infant. I wanted him to get more checkups than I could manage with co pays and parking at the time. We did a study that was looking at ear infections in infants/toddlers and the small stipend helped pay for his diapers and a stop at the coffee shop for me.

I've found studies that interested me at, on posters while riding the bus, and tear-off sheets at the doctor's office. I've even found a few just by listening to the radio. If you want to be a control subject and not take a medication, search for "healthy volunteers". If you want treatment (medication or other interventions like therapy) for a condition, search for the name of your illness. I've also found allergy medication studies on Craigslist.

4. Schools and grad programs. Friends have been particularly pleased with cleanings and treatments from local dental schools. It's not free, but the cost is much lower than a private dentist. If someone in your family needs therapy (speech, physical, occupational, etc.), you may want to see if graduate students under supervision of a licensed therapist need people to treat. Try a search on the closest college or professional schools in your area to get started, then call and ask.

5. Free public health screenings. Check the bulletin boards at your library or the community events section of your newspaper. Many organizations such as the Y sponsor health screenings with services such as checking for diabetes or high blood pressure. Your local health department may have a website with scheduled events as well.

6. Speaking of your local health department, ours offers vaccinations to the public. At the beginning of the school year, they hold "catch up clinics" for kids whose immunizations aren't up to date. Some of these are no cost and some are very low cost. Our health department also offers visiting maternal and child nurses as well as support for children with special needs. Yours may have some great programs as well -- check it out!

For more great ideas, check out Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family

and Frugal Fridays at Biblical Womanhood

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