Tag Archives: How to save money on doctor visits

It never hurts to ask

Overall, doctors are a compassionate group.  They became doctors to help people after all.  Given the right circumstances, most would consider granting a discount.  However, before you ask, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, your doctor may have already discounted their fee without you even asking.  Perhaps they only charged you for ten minutes of their time when you have taken thirty. The receptionist may be able to tell you if this is so, or could apprise you of your doctor’s usual and customary charges.

And, a word about co-pays.  Your doctor is required by law and contract to collect these payments.  Under most co-pay situations the fee has already been “adjusted” downwards by 20 to 50 percent.  If a doctor charges you say, $100, insurance often knocks that down to about $65, the remaining $35 simply disappearing as a “negotiated” adjustment.  Of the remaining $65 a good $40 goes to overhead (staff, rent, utilities, malpractice insurance, equipment, etc.).  If your insurance pays $40 of the $65 negotiated fee, that leaves your $25 co-pay to cover the doctor’s time with you.  These “negotiated fees” have dropped so low that many doctors are finding it difficult to stay in business.

In summary, if you have financial concerns, talk to your doctor about a discount.  Some doctors offer small billing discount for cash up front and others allow interest-free monthly payments.

Also, check out your Health Center on campus!  Health Centers have doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who can care for you at a discount.  Student Health Centers are great place for SAVINGS!

CRM Tip: Be reasonable, but it never hurts to ask!

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Why one doctor visit is less than two!

Almost always, one longer visit with your doctor is cheaper than two shorter visits.  (1 + 1 < 2)

The immediate savings for insured patients is obvious, with only one co-payment due rather than two.  But even for self-pay patients, longer visits are often more cost effective.

Doctors don’t like to be surprised by extra problems or work on two problems in the time allotted for one.  So, the answer to this is to simply plan ahead and when you call for your appointment, explain the situation and request more time.  If a longer appointment is not available at the original appointment time, ask for a different time or different day.  Your doctor will want to allow sufficient time to address your multiple concerns adequately.  Calling ahead alerts the office staff to the need of special coding (modifiers) when a procedure (such as an ear infection or wart removal) is combined with a Pap Smear or Breast Exam.

Plan ahead and your doctor will work with you for a happier solution.

CRM Tip: The list is endless, but the point is clear. Two problems take longer than one, but one visit is cheaper than two.

The Power of Family Doctors

Unless you are having heart by-pass surgery or perhaps a hysterectomy, you probably don’t need to go to a specialist.

For common illnesses such as acne, asthma, or anxiety, your good old family physician is well equipped to diagnose and treat these conditions most of the time and odds are, they will save you money.

Not only is your doctor likely to charge you less, overall family doctors are less likely to order expensive testing.  Specialists often look for  a definite diagnosis, whereas your family doctor may focus more on symptom relief.  He or she may offer a therapeutic trial of medicine, reserving expensive testing for conditions that aren’t easily resolved.

Family or primary care doctors aren’t just for colds and sore throats, they’re trained to handle 90 to 95% of all conditions encountered in their daily practice.  This list of conditions is long and overlaps considerably with a broad range of sub-specialities.

If you have a problem and wonder whether your doctor can handle it, give your doctor a call and if they cannot, then they will refer you to a trusted specialist, ideally one that they would be willing to see themselves!

Below is a partial list of conditions that family doctors treat on a daily basis, which normally do not require a specialist:

  • Acne, psoriasis, eczema, headache, migraine, insomnia, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, stress
  • Ear infection, hearing loss, dizziness
  • Pink eye, styes, scleral hemorrhage
  • Allergies, sinusitis, nose bleed
  • Mouth ulcers, thrush, tonsillitis, parotiditis
  • Swollen glands, goiter, stiff neck
  • Asthma, COPD, emphysema, laryngitis
  • Stable heart failure, stable angina, chronic atrial fibrillation, most heart murmurs, most palpitations, most chest pain
  • Acid reflux, ulcers, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel, hemorrhoids
  • Urine infections, kidney stones, overactive bladder, prostate infection or enlargement
  • Pap smears, birth control, menopause
  • Diabetes, thyroid disease, weight loss or gain, obesity
  • Back pain, sciatica, gout, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, warts, nail fungus
CRM Tip: Did you know consultants charge more, often considerably more, for what is frequently the same service your family doctor may render?

Establish a relationship with your doctor!

Does your doctor know you? 

Doctors assist patients without charging them, for refills on prescriptions to phone advice. That is… if your doctor knows you! If your doctor doesn’t know you, these things are not available to you.

Even if you are rarely ill, it is a good idea to see your doctor once a year.  You can use this appointment to discuss updating vaccines, routine screening tests, or perhaps that itch or dark spot you wouldn’t bother to seek medical attention for otherwise.  Such a visit could last only a few minutes and cost considerably less than a longer visit for an illness.  Patients who see their doctors at least once a year, would benefit from effective partnering as well.

Longer office visits usually cost more than shorter visits, but still less than multiple appointments, and have the advantage of saving a second co-pay.

CRM Tip:  Are you a student?  Can you go to your student health center on campus for routine things first?  Great idea and it will save you money!

How to Save Money on Doctor & Emergency Room Visits

Firstly, Health Centers on your campus are a great resource.  They can really save students money.

Secondly, Don’t go to the doctor, if you don’t need to.  How do you know?  Use some common sense and THINK ABOUT IT FIRST!

One of the many things we see in the Health Insurance field, is that students seem to go to hospital emergency rooms for non-emergencies.  This costs a great deal of money! And we hate to say it but… that was totally unnecessary! Making an appointment with a doctor, or going to an Urgent Care Clinic when necessary will avoid those costly emergency room expenses.

What to do before visiting a doctor

The #1 reason patients make unnecessary doctor’s visits is for a head cold. But here’s the catch, a typical head cold resolves itself in about a week without treatment!  Antibiotics don’t help a cold virus – your own immune system heals you.  But when symptoms progress into your chest, then a doctor’s visit is warranted.  So… to begin with — try chicken soup, instead of antibiotics!

Ask your Mom, grandma, the lady next door who raised seven kids… what they suggest.  Or call a local “Ask-a-Nurse hotline.”  If you call your doctor’s office, make sure you:

  • Give a brief but accurate synopsis of your symptoms
  • Ask them if you should be seen or how long you should give your body to heal on its own

Minor illnesses and accidents can also be treated at home!

Did you know that…

  • Minor sprains can heal within just a few days
  • Back pain be relieved with some exercises and lying still for a few days
  • Burns that doesn’t cause blistering just need to be kept clean and bee stings that only swell locally (without other symptoms) can be treated with OTS antihistamines.

So before you go to the doctor’s office or hospital, be sure to do some research on your own and see if your body just needs a few days to heal on its own.

CRM Can Help:  Call Collegiate Risk Management at 1-800-922-3420 for information on a program we have available called Tele-Doc.  For $40 per year, you can place calls to a medical doctor who can call in prescriptions for you, avoiding costly doctor visits.