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New Year’s Resolution: Make your health care dollars go further this year

Posted Apr 06 2009 11:15pm

Happy New Year!  Spending wisely for health care services is definitely a priority in 2009 and with a little knowledge; you can easily save hundreds –even thousands of dollars.   To get you started, here are some excellent tips on how you can save money on routine health care services. 

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Affordable Medical Care Services


Federally-funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), there are thousands of health centers around the U.S. that provide low-cost health care to people based on financial need. You pay what you can afford, based on your income. For more information, or you can call (888) 275-4772.


Hill-Burton facilities: There are around 200 Hill-Burton health care facilities around the country that offer free or reduced-cost health care for people that cannot afford to pay for services.  To locate a facility or to see if you qualify, or call 800-638-0742.


Free clinics: These are privately funded, non-profit, community-based clinics that typically provide care for common illnesses and injuries to those in need, at little or no cost. There are around 1,000 free clinics nationwide. To locate one in your area, call your local hospital or visitwww.freemedicalcamps.comfor more information.


Indian Health Service (IHS):A government agency within the Department of Health and Human Service, IHS provides free medical care to American Indians and Alaska Natives in 35 states. Visitwww.ihs.govfor more information.


Remote Area Medical: A non-profit, charitable organization that provides free health, dental and eye care to uninsured or underinsured people in remote areas of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia but may be expanding to other states in the future. Visitwww.ramusa.orgor call (865) 579-1530.


Affordable Eye Care/Vision Services >


To locate free or discounted eye care or eye glasses programs in your area, you should contact your local Lions Club. Call 800-747-4448 to get the number to your state Lions Club office, which can refer you to your community representative, or There are also a variety of national eye care programs that can help you too including:


EyeCare Americais a public service foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that provides free eye health educational materials and access to medical eye care.  Visitwww.eyecareamerica.orgor call (800) 222-3937. 


Vision USAoffers free vision care services to uninsured and low-income workers and their families.  Visitwww.aoa.orgor call (800) 766-4466.


Mission Cataract USAprovides free cataract surgery to people who don't have Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and are low-income. Visitwww.missioncataractusa.orgor call (800) 343-7265.


New Eyes for the Needyis an eyeglass program that accepts donations of used prescription eyeglasses and distributes them to people with limited incomes. Visitwww.neweyesfortheneedy.orgor call (973) 376-4903.


Affordable Dental Care >


Many people with health insurance do not have dental insurance.  Here are some affordable options, depending on where you live.  Call your state dental association, or local dental society ( to find out if there are any state or local programs, or clinics, that offer discounted dental care to those with limited income. Other sources you should checkout:


Health centers: In addition to low-cost health care, many HRSA health centers also offer dental care too. Visitwww.findahealthcenter.hrsa.govor call (888) 275-4772.


Dental schools: If you don't mind letting a dental student work on your teeth, dental schools are another source that may offer discounted dental care. click on “Dental Schools” for a U.S. directory and contact information. 


National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicappedis a service that provides free dental care for elderly and disabled people who can't afford to pay. To learn more or to apply for care in your state, visitwww.nfdh.orgor call 303-534-5360.


Are You Eligible for Medicaid or Assistance Programs? >


To find out if you're eligible for Medicaid, prescription drug assistance programs, Also,, a top resource for finding affordable medicine.


Source: These tips were provided byJim Miller, contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.



Affordable Lab Tests


If you need to have blood tests done, you have several options on where you can go to get affordable lab tests. 


If you are looking for preventive testing, consider attending health fairs at schools and churches. A company called Life Line Screening offers finger stick blood tests for glucose and lipid panel (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides) for $60. Results are provided on the spot. Go to or call 800-697-9721 to find out when the next local screening is scheduled. 


Also be sure to contact community centers, library, and YMCA or village hall.  These organizations often schedule affordable blood screening fairs once or twice a year.  Check with the health services department of your village or township to get more information.


If the need for additional tests comes up during a regular checkup, you can start by asking your doctor to cut the cost—to cost. Ask whether you can get involved in a clinical study; that way the blood work might be done for free.

Non-profit hospitals and most other teaching and community hospitals offer a sliding fee scale of discounts for people with no health benefits or insurance, but you have to ask. Call the hospital's financial services office and tell them your situation. Or, offer to pay in cash-- you just might get you a discount.


The ambulatory clinics are another option, but you have to make an appointment to see a doctor first. You'll be billed for the tests, but the hospital will help connect you with services you might be eligible for. Also check out community health centers. 

Finally, while it might be hard to discuss, tell the doctor—or office manager—your financial situation and see what he or she recommends.


Be sure to check out some of the online lab ordering websites including DirectLabs, LabSafe, MedLabUSA, MyMedLab and PrivateMDLabs. These lab sites offer large discounts and have drawing centers located in many different neighborhoods.


Source: These tips were provided by Julie Deardorff in her Health column in the Chicago Tribune.



Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year!





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