3 tips to prevent surprise medical bills

surprise medical billsMy guest post today is from Matthew Bahr, a healthcare finance specialist.

I’ve posted about surprise medical bills before. Sadly, they are becoming more common as healthcare costs continue to rise and provider networks shrink.

Consumer Reports estimates about one third of patients with health insurance receive these unexpectedly high medical bills.

Thank you, Matthew, for sharing your tips and expertise with my readers! FN

Although we know healthcare costs a lot of money, it still stings when we see that bill.

You might think because you’re insured, your insurance will cover most or many of the costs. But … Continue reading

Beware “miracle” cancer cures

miracle cancer curesFDA warns consumers

Nothing makes me angrier than unscrupulous companies (owned by unscrupulous individuals) marketing products advertised as “miracles” to cure illness.

These modern-day snake oil salespeople prey on fear and suffering by selling false hope. Worse, the products they sell can sometimes harm rather than heal.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently put out a new warning on their Consumer Updates page: Products claiming to “cure” cancer are a cruel deception

Frequently advertised as “natural” treatments and often falsely labeled as dietary supplements, such products may appear harmless, but may cause harm by delaying or interfering with proven,

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Tips to save money at the hospital

save money at the hospital“An American Sickness”

I love Elisabeth Rosenthal’s work.

She’s a medical journalist (an MD, but no longer practicing) who wrote a brilliant series of articles on the high cost of healthcare for the New York Times a few years ago.

Now she’s has a book on the same topic. Because, of course, our healthcare system with its punishing costs for services, drugs and insurance has not improved. If anything, it’s worse.

As a physician, Dr. Rosenthal has experienced first hand the perverse incentives—illness being more profitable than health, after all—and lack of price transparency in our healthcare system. Her book … Continue reading

Save money on seasonal allergy medications

seasonal allergy medicationsAnother post related to seasonal allergies, because 2017 is apparently going to be a nasty spring for allergy sufferers! Like me.  😥

As I said in my last post, I prefer to use a neti pot over taking medication (and it works great for me!), but I know a neti pot won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Over-the-counter allergy medications can be expensive, though, even the generics. Know what you need before you buy. Then shop for the best price. I always recommend buying the store brand.

Here is some information about the various types of drugs marketed to … Continue reading

Neti pot for spring allergies

spring allerigesSeattle has had an unseasonably cold and wet spring (even for us!), but that hasn’t stopped my seasonal allergies from arriving on cue.

Time to rinse off my neti pot.

When the pollen counts are high, I use my neti pot every day and it really, really helps.

I prefer using a neti pot rather than antihistamines to treat spring allergies for a couple of reasons.

One, it’s inexpensive. Over-the-counter allergy meds are anything but! Even the generics are pricey.

Two, there are no side effects. I don’t like how antihistamines or decongestants make me feel, and I definitely don’t … Continue reading

How to prevent colon cancer

Colon cancer on the rise in young adults

I recently read a disturbing report that colon cancer is on the rise in Millenials and GenXers.

People born in 1990 now have double the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer, compared with those born around 1950 when the risk was lowest, the researchers said.

The overall risk is still very low for that age group, but the study certainly suggests that lifestyle factors—obesity, diets high in processed foods, sedentary habits—could be a factor.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month!

A healthy diet and exercise are … Continue reading

Choosing an antifungal cream

antifungal creamOne cream to treat them all

Over the weekend, I discovered I had a minor case of athlete’s foot. I’m no athlete, but note to self: wear flip-flops when taking a shower at the gym!

I couldn’t find a tube of antifungal cream in my medicine cabinet—it’s been years since anyone in my family has needed it—so I went out to buy one.

A large number of options confronted me. As always, I thought to myself, “How do ordinary consumers decide which of these fifty tubes of antifungal creams they need?”

Most manufacturers market the creams (or ointments, powders or … Continue reading

Stay healthy this holiday season

And save money, too

With both Thanksgiving and Black Friday over and done, the holiday season is in full swing!

But so is the cold-and-flu season :/

Want to stay healthy and save some money? Here are some of my favorite cold-prevention, money-saving posts.

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Choosing Wisely – Use less healthcare

My goal for 2017? Use as little healthcare as possible

How will healthcare change under a new president and political party?

That’s a question I can’t answer. As I wrote in my last post, both candidates had multiple-point plans to tweak/improve/repeal/replace the Affordable Care Act, aka the ACA or Obamacare.

But I don’t know what will change or when.

What I know for sure is that for 2017 my premiums will be 20% more expensive, my co-insurance and co-pays will be higher, and my current primary care doctor will no longer be in-network.

I can and will shop around … Continue reading

An EpiShell for your EpiPen

The EpiShell will protect your investment

I recently saw a news story about a local family that came up with a brilliant invention—the EpiShell.

What is the EpiShell? It’s a small insulated tube that provides climate control for your EpiPens.

epishell

Why is this a great idea? Like most medications, epinephrine is best kept at room temperature. Temperature extremes speed up deterioration of the product.

Anyone who needs an EpiPen is counseled to carry it with them at all times. If a child has a life-threatening allergy, that means having multiple EpiPens for school, daycare, a backpack, the family car, … Continue reading

Don’t reach for Life Line screenings

I first posted about Life Line screenings two years ago. I’m re-posting today as this post still gets a lot of traffic and I wanted to reopen the comments. 

life line screeningsOvertreating, overspending

I just received an invitation in the mail!

Not to a party or a wedding or anything fun, but to a Life Line Screening event being held at a local church. The letter says they’re holding a spot for me on this particular date, but I must call NOW to confirm and register, because spaces are LIMITED!

“These aren’t just routine medical procedures—they can help save your life”

Oh, … Continue reading

View Prevnar 13 ads with caution

prevnar 13Prevnar 13: As seen on TV

I was watching TV the other evening and, as usual, was forced to sit through multiple back-to-back prescription drug commercials.

One that caught my attention was for Prevnar 13, which is one of the pneumonia vaccines. (13 because it protects against 13 strains of streptococcus pneumonia.)

The commercial stated Prevnar 13 was for adults aged 50 and older.

That statement’s true, but needs some clarification.

Yes, Pfizer did get FDA approval a few years ago to market Prevnar 13 to adults over the age of 50. Previously, the vaccine was only used for … Continue reading

Prevent kidney stones

kidney stonesAnd save money!

If you’re interested in how much a kidney stone costs, read this blog post from the Costs of Care website. The author of the post gives an accounting of her physician visits, diagnostic tests and medications:

  • At least 5 sets of blood work, with CBC and chemical profiles, parathyroid studies
  • Several urine tests, including urinalysis and urine culture, and two 24 hour urine tests (a third 24 hour urine test was recommended but I declined)
  • 2 CT scans
  • 1 MRI
  • 4 specialist visits, 2 primary care visits, 2 ER visits (involving IVs, pain meds, lab studies)
  • Prescriptions
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Home remedies for heartburn

heartburnImmediate relief

The other day a family member asked for my advice on treating heartburn. It’s a common problem and fortunately there are many lifestyle changes and simple products to try before spending money on doctors’ appointments and prescription medications.

For the occasional case of heartburn following a large meal, or eating too late at night, or being more stressed than usual, try a herbal product or one of the inexpensive over-the-counter antacids.

  • Chamomile has a mild healing and protective effect on the digestive tract. Choose a good-quality tea bag and enjoy a cup after a meal.
  • Peppermint also has
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Save money – Tips for healthy teeth

healthy teethPreventive care saves money

As anyone without dental insurance (like me!) can tell you, dental care is expensive. In a previous post I share some ideas for saving money at the dentist.

But the best thing you can do, and teach your kids to do, is take care of your teeth. Healthy teeth save money.

That means taking time to care for your teeth EVERY DAY.

Did you know that with proper oral care small cavities can heal themselves? If your dentist finds a small cavity, ask about watching and waiting for a few months to see if you … Continue reading