Surprising ways to save money on health care
Apps and websites can find the best prices for everything from a root canal to the cost of health insurance.
Nearly 50 million people in the United States have no health insurance. Those who do have coverage may still find it tough to deal with co-pays, deductibles and coverage caps.
Stretch your health care dollars with apps and websites that will help you save on everything from a root canal to the cost of health insurance.
Depending on your circumstances, some of these services can lead you to health care that's very low-cost or even free.
This isn't a comprehensive list, but it's a good start.
A Web app called Simplee is like Mint.com for health care, according to Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch.com. Enter your health insurance account information and Simplee organizes it and then cross-checks medical claims and flags potential billing errors such as duplicate charges. If you decide to shop for a new plan, the site can suggest the right match based on your health care history.
Searching for coverage or for a better deal than your current health insurance? HealthPocket is a free site that shows all insurance plans in your region and lets you filter them by cost, prescription coverage and other details. You don't need to enter any personally identifiable information.
A free app called ZocDoc will search for area doctors who accept your insurance and also lets you book appointments, "even at the last minute," notes Dr. Steven Kussin of MedicalAdvocate.com. MedicalAdvocate.com. "This is one great outfit."
Can't afford health insurance right now? Check out Fair Health and Healthcare Blue Book, a pair of sites that offer insurance-paid rates in your region. Consumer Reports suggests asking potential health care providers to accept this rate (or less), paid in cash at the time of service. This will bolster your pay-as-you-go plan.
Dental care options
More than 130 million Americans don't have dental insurance. If you're among them, check out these sites for low-cost (or even free) alternatives:
Dental schools. Don't worry -- it's supervised.
Orthodontics schools. This link includes locations in five Canadian provinces and Puerto Rico.
Nonprofit programs. Two more sources for free or nearly free orthodontic care are Smiles Change Lives and Smile for a Lifetime.
Vision and prescriptions
For eye care, EyeBenefits is a database of more than 14,000 providers offering discounted eye exams, glasses and contact lenses.
A trio of free eye care options exist:
- Vision USA provides free exams by members of the American Optometric Association. Services are limited in some areas; to apply, see details in the link.
- Sight For Students provides both eye exams and glasses for low-income, uninsured students who are under 18 and have not yet graduated.
- EyeCare America features several free-care projects, including help for people with diabetes and glaucoma.
Prescription costs can eat you alive. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance lists discount drug programs and offers tips on low-cost or free medication sources for the uninsured.
A free app called GoodRx compares medication prices at virtually every U.S. pharmacy, and may also provide coupons and cost-saving suggestions.
Health in the public interest
The Children's Health Insurance Program has coverage on a sliding-scale basis for youths up to age 19.
More than 8,500 federally qualified health centers provide care based on ability to pay.
State public health departments offer immunizations and other care.
The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics site has links to free and low-cost U.S. providers.
More than three-fifths of the clients at Planned Parenthood clinics use the family planning centers for primary health care. Care is on a sliding scale, which could be free.
The 2-1-1 social services clearinghouse offers information on all sorts of regional programs that you might not find on your own.
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