Health-Care Savings in Hard Times by Charles B. Inlander of People's Medical Society


senior member
Concord, NH
Sadly, many people are now cutting back on their medications to save money. Doing this may save dollars in the short run -- but over time, it is likely to cost people much more as their medical troubles return or worsen. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save a lot of money on your health-care expenses without jeopardizing your health.

How you can start saving today...

Call rather than visit your doctor. I recently saved $300 in office-visit and consultation fees by calling a specialist who had been treating me and talking about a problem on the phone rather than going to his office. This doctor was able and willing to review the status of my condition by talking to me, and he called in a prescription. In a nonemergency situation, such as following up on an office visit or asking about a symptom, this approach may save you money. Important: Some doctors are starting to charge nominal fees for telephone consultations, which are not covered by insurance.

Get free supplies. Doctors offices are a great place to get free medical supplies. My wife recently got 10 free boxes of contact lens solution from her optometrist. She saved $120! Endocrinologists and family doctors often have diabetes supplies... urologists often have large supplies of catheter bags... and your other specialists may have supplies you use. When it comes to samples of prescriptions drugs, be careful.

Patients often receive free samples of new, costly medications. While such drugs may be appropriate, its best to ask your doctor if there is a less expensive medication that is just as effective for your condition.

Borrow equipment. Check with friends or relatives if you need a walker, crutches, wheelchair or even a hospital bed. A friend of mine has saved thousands of dollars this way. Just be sure to disinfect the equipment.

Use store-brand products. We all know that the generic versions of prescription medications are much less expensive than brand-name drugs. But the savings dont stop there. Store-brand over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, cold remedies and cough syrups, are often half the price of the big-name brands. Store-brand incontinence products, foot-care supplies and other health products are also cheaper.

Review your insurance. If you are covered by Medicare, compare "Medigap" plans (Medicare supplemental insurance) each year to see if you are getting maximum coverage for the price. Go to the Medicare Web site,, and click on "Compare Health Plans and Medigap Policies in Your Area." At the same Web site, you can compare Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit plans as well. If you are not eligible for Medicare, but need health insurance, check Web sites such as AARPs,, or local health plans in your area. Most insurance companies now offer many individual and family plans. If you have been insured until very recently, you can buy plans that cover even pre-existing conditions at affordable prices. So dont wait. Start saving today.

Bottom Line/Health interviewed Charles B. Inlander is a consumer advocate and health-care consultant based in Fogelsville , Pennsylvania . He was the founding president of the nonprofit Peoples Medical Society, a consumer advocacy organization credited with key improvements in the quality of US health care in the 1980s and 1990s, and is the author of 20 books, including Take This Book to the Hospital with You: A Consumer Guide to Surviving Your Hospital Stay (St. Martins).