health care en-US Don't Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dont-fall-for-these-common-obamacare-scams" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="piggy bank" title="piggy bank" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, begins to roll out, health insurance scams linked to the law have been proliferating. Consumer advocates fear the scams may become even more common as health insurance exchanges come online. (See also: <a href="">Understanding the ACA's Health Insurance Exchange</a>)</p> <p>The Obamacare scams are many and varied. Con artists are setting up fake websites, posing as government workers or insurance agents, and contacting consumers by phone, email, text messages, and even in person.</p> <p>They are selling fake insurance plans, requesting personal financial information, and seeking personal information to commit identity theft.</p> <p>Government officials and consumer advocates are warning Americans about these most common Obamacare scams.</p> <h2>Fees for Help</h2> <p>Fraudsters contact potential victims by phone, email, or text message and offer to help them access the new health insurance exchanges &mdash; for a fee. Beware: They're out to collect bogus fees. They also collect bank account numbers or other sensitive financial information. (See also: <a href="">Obamacare Fraud Alert</a>)</p> <p>Official helpers, called navigators, assisters, or counselors, can help you with the health insurance marketplace. But they don't charge fees or push particular plans. To find people who can help you understand your health coverage options and enroll in a plan, visit <a href="">the government's local help site</a>.</p> <h2>Government Imposters</h2> <p>Some scammers claim they're from the government. It's a lie. No one from the government is calling people about their insurance. Government agencies may send you letters but will never ask for money or credit card numbers.</p> <p>Con artists may use high-pressure tactics, saying &quot;It's the law.&quot; They're known to threaten potential victims with penalties or even jail time if they don't sign up or buy a special insurance card.</p> <p>Such penalties are not possible since the law's individual mandate, which levies a financial penalty on those who don't obtain insurance, does not take effect until 2014 and entails no jail penalty.</p> <h2>Bogus Medicare Cards</h2> <p>In this scam, criminals say you need a new Medicare card because you'll lose coverage if you don't buy a new card. They may ask for your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers, too.</p> <p>Actually, no one needs a new Medicare card or any other insurance card, and no one will lose insurance coverage.</p> <h2>Discount Plans</h2> <p>Scammers try to sell medical discount plans, calling them insurance policies. They are not. Most discount plans entail club memberships claiming to offer reduced prices from doctors and other medical costs. Many don't deliver any cost savings. Others are just cons designed to collect personal information and commit identity theft. (See also: <a href="">How to Prevent Identity Theft</a>)</p> <h2>Insurance Agent Scams</h2> <p>Scammers may pose as insurance agents. They typically use high-pressure techniques, such as saying you must &quot;act now&quot; to get a discount or that you'll lose access to your current doctors under Medicare if you don't sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan. That's not true.</p> <p>If you have Medicare, you don't have to do anything different because of Obamacare. Some insurance agents can help you with the Health Insurance Marketplace, but don't provide personal information or pay any money to someone who contacts you.</p> <h2>Fake Websites</h2> <p>Scammers set up fake websites to collect sensitive financial information and spread malware. To trick visitors, the sites are designed to look like an official health care exchange, complete with official seal. For instance, as <a href="">The Washington Post reported</a>, the sites and were reported and taken down.</p> <h2>Steps to Take to Avoid Getting Taken</h2> <p>Consumer confusion about the new law creates opportunities for criminals. A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that as recently as April 2013, <a href="">4 in 10 Americans did not know that Obamacare was the law</a>. Many thought it had been repealed by Congress or struck down by the Supreme Court.</p> <p><strong>Learn About the Law</strong></p> <p>Read Wise Bread's ongoing coverage of the <a href="">ACA</a> and <a href="">health insurance</a> in general to stay informed, or visit <a href=""></a>. In addition to learning about the law, you can shop for insurance through that website.</p> <p><strong>Keep Detailed Notes</strong></p> <p>Write down the name of anyone who assists you, who they work for, their telephone number, address, email, and website address.</p> <p><strong>Ignore Solicitors</strong></p> <p>Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information or someone claiming to be from the government. Better yet, report them by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visiting <a href=""></a>.</p> <p><em>Have you been contacted by a health insurance scam artist?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Don&#039;t Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Michael Kling</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Insurance ACA fraud health care health insurance insurance obamacare scams Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:26 +0000 Michael Kling 991234 at Canada and U.S. Retirement Showdown: Which Offers More for Retirees? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/canada-and-us-retirement-showdown-which-offers-more-for-retirees" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="painted faces" title="painted faces" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Let&rsquo;s just say this &mdash; in all-out ground war between Canada and the U.S., Canada just can&rsquo;t compete. After all, Canada&rsquo;s defended by a few notoriously out-of-date military aircraft, and for some time, the country&rsquo;s largest fleet of submarines was making a tour around a pirate ship in a shopping mall.</p> <p>Of course, aside from a hard-fought game between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, there isn&rsquo;t much animosity between the two countries. After all, we have a lot in common. We share an official language, we have access to the same media and, in many cases, we share a lot of the same values. And here&rsquo;s another thing we have in common &mdash; in January 2012, LIMRA, an association of insurance companies, released <a href=";type=exclusiveinn#.UTe5nhyc5FY" target="_blank">a survey of pre-retirees in both countries</a> and found that about half in each said they weren&rsquo;t confident they could maintain their desired lifestyle during retirement. It&rsquo;s an interesting statistic because planning for retirement is quite different in the U.S. as compared to Canada.</p> <p>So, in the spirit of friendly cross border competition, I decided to put Canada and the U.S. head-to-head. Which country is best for retirees? Let&rsquo;s take a look at a few key factors. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="">Choosing a Retirement Account:&nbsp;What's Available, and What's Best for You?</a>)</p> <h2>Retirement Plans</h2> <p>Let's start with the biggie. Which nation offers its residents the better retirement planning options?</p> <p><strong>The U.S.</strong></p> <p>In the U.S., people can opt to save for retirement using a number of different vehicles, including the Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, a qualified plan (including the 401(k) and profit-sharing plans), the 403(b) or some combination of these plans (<em>whew!</em>).</p> <p>Of course, not all of these programs are available to everyone &mdash; and many aren&rsquo;t suitable for everyone:</p> <ul> <li>With a Traditional IRA, you get a tax deduction for your contributions but are taxed when you withdraw the funds in retirement.</li> <li>With a <a href="">Roth IRA</a> there&rsquo;s no tax deduction, but qualified withdrawals are tax-free.</li> <li>Employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s offer all sorts of other options.</li> </ul> <p>In a word, finding the right retirement plan &mdash; and following the rules &mdash; is notoriously complicated in the U.S. On the other hand, the number of choices available makes it easier for people to find just the right fit for their financial situation.</p> <p><strong>Canada</strong></p> <p>Besides the few remaining employer sponsored retirement plans, Canadians rely on the one, the only retirement saving tool available to them &mdash; the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).</p> <p>In a nutshell, this plan allows working Canadians to contribute 18% of their earned income up to a maximum of $23,820 in 2013, and to deduct that contribution from their taxable income. The money isn&rsquo;t taxed until it is withdrawn during retirement. And compared to U.S. plans, RRSPs are subject to few rules and restrictions. It&rsquo;s basically a type of investment account, so people can invest in whatever they like and park that money in whatever bank they choose. As long as they stay within the contribution limits and avoid making early withdrawals, they won&rsquo;t run into any fees or red tape.</p> <p><strong>The Verdict: </strong>The U.S. is known as the land of opportunity and when it comes to retirement plans, it&rsquo;s got just about every option anyone could need. The problem is that with all the different plans and all their various rules about contributions, withdrawals and &quot;qualified distributions,&quot; things can get more than a little confusing. And all of this can serve to deter people from doing what really matters &mdash; saving their money.</p> <p>The RRSP is simple and the tax deduction encourages Canadians to save. I&rsquo;m going to give Canada the point on this one.</p> <h2>Government Sponsored Retirement Programs</h2> <p>In both nations, private retirement accounts are back-stopped by government support. Which is tops?</p> <p><strong>The U.S.</strong></p> <p>There are two government sponsored retirement programs in the U.S.: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Federal Old Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance (OASDI). The former provides benefit payments for very low income or disabled individuals. The latter, known as Social Security, has people contribute when they're employed and then provides retirement benefits later in life. In 2012, the maximum OASDI benefit is $2,513 per month at full retirement age, which is 67 as of 2012. During their careers, employees contribute 6.2% of their earnings to Social Security, a number that&rsquo;s matched by employers.</p> <p><strong>Canada</strong></p> <p>In Canada, the government sponsored retirement model has three pillars:</p> <ul> <li>Old Age Security (OAS), which provides a flat benefit to all qualifying Canadians but includes a clawback formula depending on retirement income.</li> <li>The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which provides additional benefits for low income retirees.</li> <li>The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) (or QPP in Quebec), which, like Social Security, provides benefits to Canadians based on their employment contributions.</li> </ul> <p>The big difference is the maximum benefit. For Canadians, CPP tops out at $987 per month at full retirement age, which is 65 years. OAS adds up to another $540 per month. In other words, most Canadians stand to get <em>a lot</em> less from the government when they retire. To be fair, Canadians also contribute less &mdash; 4.9% of earned income, which is also matched by their employer.</p> <p><strong>The Verdict:</strong> It&rsquo;s hard to argue that getting more money from the government is a sweet deal, but that money has to come from somewhere. That&rsquo;s part of the reason why Social Security may be unsustainable by 2033, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the Congressional Budget Office</a>, while (at least so far) <a href="" target="_blank">CPP is well-funded</a> and sound enough to be around for future generations of Canadians.</p> <p>Who wins out on this one? It&rsquo;s a toss-up. Government-sponsored income is what keeps many people afloat, but although many people in Canada complain that the CPP doesn&rsquo;t go far enough, a higher payout comes at a cost. Plus, although in theory the low CPP payout should encourage Canadians to max out their RRSPs, many don&rsquo;t.</p> <h2>Health Care</h2> <p>Canada, with its government-funded health care system, would seem to be the clear winner here. Is it?</p> <p><strong>The U.S.</strong></p> <p>If there&rsquo;s one huge difference between retiring in Canada compared to retiring in the U.S.,and it&rsquo;s health care, says Dale Walters, a Certified Financial Planner and author of &quot;<a href="" target="_blank">Taxation of Canadians in America</a>.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;Medicare, as a government-subsidized plan, is similar to the provincial health care in Canada, but there&rsquo;s a large portion that comes out of the retirees&rsquo; own pockets. So Americans have those ever-increasing health care costs to deal with,&quot; Walters said.</p> <p>A 2012 <a href="">report</a> by the &quot;Journal of General Internal Medicine&quot; found that 75% of Americans who were eligible for Medicare paid at least $10,000 per year out of pocket for health care expenses, and that health care costs put seniors under major strain.</p> <p><strong>Canada</strong></p> <p>In Canada, basic health care is mostly funded by the federal government and the provinces. So, for the most part, visiting the doctor and being treating in hospital comes free of charge. And while additional costs such as prescription drugs and other medical supplies and products may have to be purchased by retirees or are only covered on a limited basis, you&rsquo;d be hard pressed to run up a five-figure health care bill in Canada, no matter how sick you got.</p> <p><strong>The Verdict:</strong> Whether the cost of health care is a real issue for a retiree in the U.S. depends on personal circumstances, but it&rsquo;s hard to deny that these costs can be dangerously high for some American seniors. That puts Canada on top here. But there&rsquo;s one big exception. If you need a hip replacement, an MRI or even just a trip to the emergency room, in Canada, <a href="">you&rsquo;ll probably be in for a wait</a> &mdash; often a long one.</p> <h2>Taxes</h2> <p>Because retirees in both countries are earning less than in their working years, tax burden is relatively low. Where is it lower?</p> <p><strong>The U.S.</strong></p> <p>At a glance, the tax rates for Canada and the U.S. appear to be similar, but Walters says the marginal tax rate in the U.S. puts a smaller burden on those in the <a href="">highest income brackets</a> and provides more opportunity for tax breaks. The result? Significantly lower taxes.</p> <p>&quot;In the U.S., there is a big difference between gross income and taxable income. In Canada, those are pretty close together. That can mean paying about 30% less tax in the U.S. compared to Canada,&quot; Walters said.</p> <p><strong>Canada</strong></p> <p>Canadians hit the highest tax bracket (29%) at just over $130,000 in income, compared to nearly $400,000 to hit the maximum 35% tax rate in the U.S. For Canadians, that means higher taxes during their working years and, because of the relative lack of deductions, possibly in retirement as well. According to a 2012 <a href="">report</a> by CBS, Canada also tends to have higher sales tax. That&rsquo;s why the U.S. is increasingly being touted as a tax haven for Canadian retirees!</p> <p><strong>The Verdict:</strong> Canadians pay more taxes, which can make it harder to save for retirement and pay for what they need once they get there. In a straight comparison, the U.S. comes out on top here. I&rsquo;ll leave it to others to argue about who gets more for their money.</p> <h2>Cost of Living</h2> <p>It won't matter how much you've socked away for retirement if the stuff you need to buy costs too much.</p> <p>A bigger market means lower prices. So, thanks to a population that&rsquo;s nearly 10 times that of its neighbor to the north, the U.S. enjoys lower prices on just about everything. According to <a href=";country2=United+States" target="_blank"></a>, consumer prices are more than 16% lower in the United States than in Canada. And, of course, as a result of the recent crash in the real estate market, buying a home in a retirement-friendly Southern state is cheaper than ever.</p> <p><strong>The Verdict:</strong> The cost of living in the U.S. is considerably lower than it is in Canada. For American retirees, (and Canadian snowbirds) this is a good thing. The U.S. definitely scores a point over Canada here.</p> <h2>Climate</h2> <p>If there&rsquo;s one last thing that matters to a lot of retirees, it&rsquo;s climate. Unless you&rsquo;re one of the hardy few who love the icy winter wind that seems to be inescapable in most Canadian cities, the U.S. has Canada beat hands down on this one. According to Herschel Gavsie, an immigration attorney at Greenspoon Marder in Miami, this has lead to an increase in the number of &quot;endvestors,&quot; a term used to describe the growing ranks of real estate investors who&rsquo;ve been snapping up properties in the U.S., especially in warm, coastal states like Florida.</p> <p><strong>The Verdict: </strong>Many people envision living out their final days on a warm, sunny beach; just try finding one of those in Canada. Point for the U.S.</p> <p><strong>And the Winner Is...</strong></p> <p>This is hardly a scientific analysis, but I&rsquo;m going to give the win to Canada for one simple reason. According to Walters, Canadians tend to have more retirement savings and better financial knowledge than their aging American peers. Why is that a win? Because whether you&rsquo;re retiring in the United States or the Great White North, both systems have the resources to help you <a href="">pave the way for a comfortable retirement</a>. The key is to learn about the programs and benefits available where you live and work to use them to your advantage.</p> <p>Oh, and if you feel like you&rsquo;re getting the short end of the stick, you can always take a hike to the closest border crossing. But be forewarned. You know what they say about the color of the grass on the other side of the fence.</p> <p><em>What do you think? Is the U.S. or Canada a better place for retirees? Share your insight and experience in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Canada and U.S. Retirement Showdown: Which Offers More for Retirees?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tara Struyk</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Retirement Canada health care IRAs retirement planning Fri, 15 Mar 2013 11:24:37 +0000 Tara Struyk 969768 at The Types of Health Insurance Plans <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-types-of-health-insurance-plans" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="doctor" title="doctor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Understanding the kinds of health insurance plans isn&rsquo;t easy. Textbook definitions differ from real-world designs offered by your employer or private insurance agencies.</p> <p>Insurance companies may use corporate doublespeak, christening a plan with a name that is misleading and even the opposite of the plan type. And you may not be able to use the plan as intended because its design is not in sync with the day-to-day practices of healthcare providers, through no fault of the insurance company. (See also: <a href="">How to Find Free (or Cheap) Health&nbsp;Resources</a>)</p> <h2>Theoretical Health Insurance Plans</h2> <p>Still, it is useful to learn about the kinds of health insurance plans. <em>In theory</em>, comprehensive health insurance plans fall under one of these categories.</p> <p><strong>HMO Plans / EPO Plans </strong></p> <p>Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs) restrict your choice of providers (physicians, hospitals, etc.) as a way to manage care and contain costs.</p> <p>Typically, a primary care physician (PCP) coordinates your care with specialty physicians and other providers within the HMO or exclusive provider network. To keep costs low, preventive care is emphasized. Also, you might have less say in the care you receive or find that getting a referral is difficult because the plan design encourages cost control.</p> <p>Monthly premiums may be relatively higher but usage costs, such as co-pays, coinsurance, and deductibles, tend to be lower than average. Overall, expenses should be lower based on better management of healthcare expenditures on your behalf.</p> <p><strong>PPO Plans</strong></p> <p>Preferred Provider Option (PPO) or Preferred Provider Network (PPN) plans have a list of healthcare providers that are preferred. There are financial incentives to visit these physicians, have surgical procedures at these hospitals, etc. as compared to those that are not preferred, aka out-of-network providers.</p> <p>Generally, when you use network providers, you pay lower co-pays and fee percentages. Plus, you get pre-negotiated, discounted rates for services as compared to higher costs associated with out-of-network physicians and facilities.</p> <p>A PPO plan may have specifications on how you get coverage for services. For example, you may need to get a pre-certification to cover the cost of surgery.</p> <p><strong>POS Plans </strong></p> <p>Point-of-Service (POS) plans are sometimes described as a hybrid of HMO and PPO plans, or considered so similar to PPOs that they are classified together. Similar to the HMO, you choose a primary care physician from a list of approved providers and the PCP manages your care, making referrals to specialists as deemed appropriate.</p> <p>Like the PPO, there are financial incentives to using in-network providers, but you can get some reimbursement (or have charges applied to deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, etc.) when you use out-of-network providers.</p> <p><strong>Fee-for-Service Plans </strong></p> <p>Fee-for-service plans are considered traditional plans or traditional indemnity plans, meaning that the insurance operates like your auto or homeowner's insurance. You pay monthly premiums and when you visit a healthcare provider, you file a claim. After you meet the deductible for the year, you receive reimbursement for your expenses.</p> <p>Under traditional plans, there is no mechanism that controls healthcare expenses or limits your usage, until you reach maximums (if any) for reimbursement. (See <a href="">Health Insurance Plans, Two Other Numbers to Look at</a>&nbsp;to learn about annual and lifetime maximums.)</p> <p><strong>HDHPs/CDHPs</strong></p> <p><a href="">High-deductible health plans</a> (HDHP) have, well, a high deductible. Except for preventive care (which may be covered under your policy), you must reach the deductible before you get reimbursement for medical expenses.</p> <p>HDHPs are considered <a href="">HSA eligible</a> if the deductible is at least $1,200 for an individual or $2,400 for a family, and other requirements are met. You can set aside money in a Health Savings Account (HSA) for expenses in the current year or future years; plus you can get a tax break for contributions. When the plan is linked to an HSA, the plan may be called an Account-Based Health Plan (ABHP).</p> <p>These plans may also be described as consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) because there is generally less oversight by the insurance company or physicians in regard to healthcare spending. As the name implies, the consumer directs healthcare purchases. Because more responsibility is placed on the consumer to pay a greater portion of medical bills (at least for day-to-day expenditures), the insured has a greater incentive to control costs. (See <a href="">The Myth of Consumer-Directed Health Care</a> on the difference between theory and practice.)</p> <h2>Real-World Health Insurance Plans</h2> <p><em>In practice</em>, the lines between the various types of plans are blurred, <a href="">Kiplinger&rsquo;s Kimberly Lankford</a> tells me. For example, she explains that most health insurance plans, whether HMO, PPO, POS, Fee for Service, or HDHP, offer a network of providers along with financial incentives to use these providers.</p> <p>Looking at the actual design of a specific plan offered by your employer or available through a private insurance company, then, may be more useful than trying to determine costs and benefits based on a plan&rsquo;s label. Consider these features that may be common among many plans:</p> <ul> <li>There is a financial incentive for using in-network providers, such as lower co-pays.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>It costs more to use out-of-network providers except in an emergency.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Primary care physicians are responsible for directing your care; that is, a referral is required to see specialists.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Prevention is emphasized and covered under the policy without having to reach deductibles.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>The deductible is high.</li> </ul> <p>From my experience, many physicians, hospitals, and other medical providers follow managed-care protocols associated with HMO, EPO, PPO, or POS plans regardless of your insurance plan. For example, a specialist may require you to have a referral from a primary care physician even if your HDHP does not have this requirement.</p> <p>Or providers may make recommendations about your care by saying &ldquo;your insurance will cover _____ procedure&rdquo; or &ldquo;your insurance won&rsquo;t pay for ____ visit&rdquo; based on their past experiences with other types of insurance, not specific knowledge of your plan. Their thinking might be so rigid and attuned to matching care with expected insurance coverage that you are not given the right information in order to use your plan as designed.</p> <p>On the other hand, you may enlist the help of your primary care physician to make decisions, let you know what kind of screenings may be most beneficial based on your family medical history, advise on what tests may be needed to diagnose a condition, etc. So, even if you have a CDHP, you can create your own kind of &ldquo;managed care&rdquo; without the restrictions of an HMO, PPO, etc.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>What kind of health insurance plan do you have? Does it neatly fall into one of these categories or are the lines blurred?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The Types of Health Insurance Plans" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty Insurance emergency health care health insurance Mon, 23 Jul 2012 10:24:35 +0000 Julie Rains 942159 at Open Wide: 5 Ways to Score Discount Dental Care <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/open-wide-5-ways-to-score-discount-dental-care" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="big smile" title="big smile" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Most of us dread going to the dentist, but it&rsquo;s a necessary evil if we don&rsquo;t want our teeth to fall out of our faces. The dreams I have about that are bad enough.</p> <p>But dental fees without insurance can be costly &mdash; and prohibitive. Many people won&rsquo;t go to the dentist to fix whatever&rsquo;s ailing their mouths because they can&rsquo;t afford it (there are 45 million Americans younger than 65 who don&rsquo;t have dental coverage). That&rsquo;s a very dangerous practice because the problem can turn quite serious quickly &mdash; and then there&rsquo;s really no choice in the matter.</p> <p>To help you keep your pearly whites in pristine condition without having to take out a second mortgage, here are some alternative ways to get good dental care at reduced rates. (See also: <a href="">How to Find Free (or Cheap) Health Care Resources</a>)</p> <h3> <ph3>1. Go Back to (Dental) School </ph3> </h3> <p><ph3> </ph3></p> <p>Some <a href="">dental schools</a> provide services for cheaper than they would be at a regular practice. The work comes from students under the supervision of dentists. To find a dental school in your area, visit the <a href="">American Dental Association</a>. I had one of my wisdom teeth extracted at a dental school after it became abscessed because I was without insurance after I graduated college. I saved a lot of money &mdash; it was probably about 80% of what it would have cost if I had gone to my regular dentist without insurance. Also, when I was a kid, my mom took me to a dental school for teeth cleanings during periods where we didn&rsquo;t have dental insurance, and I highly recommend it. If no dental schools are in your area, perhaps there&rsquo;s a <a href="">dental hygiene school</a>. Two different schools, but both will make your mouth happier.</p> <h3>2. Join a Discount Dental Plan</h3> <p><a href=""></a> is a great resource for those without insurance who are seeking lower-cost dental care. The site allows users to search, compare, and select from more than 30 discount dental plans that offer saving of 10% to 60% off most dental procedures. To find a dentist near you, just type in your ZIP&nbsp;code to search available plans, dentists in your area who participate, and the costs of the plans.</p> <h3>3. Sign Up for Daily Deals</h3> <p>Best known for discounts on lifestyle goods, sites like <a href="">Groupon and Living Social</a> are starting to help people fill their insurance voids. According to <a href="">Deal Radar</a>, about 1 out of every 11 deals offered online is for a health care service. Personally, I&rsquo;ve purchased a couple of teeth-whitening Groupons that saved me a lot of money. I know that&rsquo;s a cosmetic procedure, but it&rsquo;s something that my insurance wouldn&rsquo;t cover, and I&rsquo;m too cheap to pay the regular $600 fee; the $149 price tag was much more appealing.</p> <h3>4. Find One-Time Freebies</h3> <p>Check out <a href="">Free Dental Work</a> for free dental clinic event listings. This resource can be especially helpful if you have children in need of dental care.</p> <h3>5. Search for Price Breaks</h3> <p>Can't find a dental school in your area? No worries. You may be able to find the care you're looking for on the <a href="">National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research</a> website. Once you're on the site, click on the &ldquo;Finding Dental Care&rdquo; section to locate dentists and programs that offer discounted dental care in your area.</p> <p><em>Do you have other ideas on how to get quality dental care when there&rsquo;s no insurance available? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Open Wide: 5 Ways to Score Discount Dental Care" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty dental dental discount plan health care Fri, 01 Jun 2012 10:24:09 +0000 Mikey Rox 932407 at Healthcare 2.0: Websites to Help You Save on Doctors, Dentists, and More <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/healthcare-20-websites-to-help-you-save-on-doctors-dentists-and-more" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="dentist" title="dentist" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I graduated college, there was a period of time that I was without health insurance. Two years, in fact.</p> <p>During that time, I avoided the doctor at all costs and kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn't have an accident that would require me to visit the hospital. I already had plenty of school loans, and the last thing I needed was a sky-high medical bill that would plunge me further into debt.</p> <p>Of course, that was nearly 10 years ago (I need a defibrillator &mdash; stat! &mdash; after writing that), and times have changed. Technology has brought us lots of resources to help manage healthcare bills and expenses. Here are six that I think you should know about. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="">How to Find Free (or Cheap) Health Resources</a>)</p> <h2>Simplee</h2> <p><a href="">Simplee</a> is like <a href="">Mint</a> for your health costs. You can track health expenses (medical, dental, and pharmacy bills) based on you and/or your family&rsquo;s history. Simplee breaks it all down in an easy-to-understand dashboard. You can also shop for a health plan based on expenses and doctors.</p> <h2></h2> <p>Many major insurance carriers offer <a href="">discount plans in addition to traditional dental insurance</a>. You can search, compare, and select from more than 30 discount dental plans at <a href=""></a>. Just type in your ZIP code to find out what plans are available, how much they cost, and what dentists in your area participate.</p> <h2>DRX</h2> <p>Check out your prescriptions at <a href="">DRX</a> for lower-cost generic equivalents and therapeutic alternatives to save money on your meds. DRX will also show you how much you can save by ordering through the mail or pill splitting, the latter of which can save you a lot of money when you ask the doctor for double the dosage and cut the pills in half when you get home.</p> <h2>EyeBenefits</h2> <p>Members of <a href="">EyeBenefits</a> search an online database and receive significant discounts on vision care from providers in their area, including routine eye exams, contacts, lenses, and frames. There is a nominal fee associated with membership to EyeBenefits, but you may be able to take care of that with your <a href="">Flex Spending Account</a> (if you have one) to save you from having to pay for it out of pocket.</p> <h2>eHealthInsurance</h2> <p>At <a href="">eHealthInsurance</a> you can compare the basics and find an affordable health policy available by type and ZIP code. The site will give you a list of plans by area, monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-pay and co-insurance amounts. You can also check to see if your current doctor is in-network.</p> <h2>Healthcare Blue Book</h2> <p>Find fair prices for surgery, hospital stays, doctor visits, and medical tests, based on the average fee that providers in your area accept as payment from insurers. <a href="">Healthcare Blue Book</a> also provides money-saving tips for each procedure and a pricing agreement that makes it easier to negotiate with out-of-network providers.</p> <p>Why should you think about looking into these pocket-protecting healthcare options? For starters, an estimated nine million adults have lost their health insurance in the past two years, according to a 2011 <a href="">report by the Commonwealth Fund</a>. In addition, an estimated 29 million people have used up all of their savings to pay medical bills. Our healthcare problem in the United States doesn&rsquo;t discriminate; lack of coverage can happen to anyone at any time. These resources will help you better manage the situation if you&rsquo;re ever in a financial bind or find yourself unemployed.</p> <p><em>Do you have more healthcare resources that will save readers money? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Healthcare 2.0: Websites to Help You Save on Doctors, Dentists, and More" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Health and Beauty dental discount plan eye care health care Wed, 23 May 2012 09:48:15 +0000 Mikey Rox 929322 at How to Find Free (or Cheap) Health Resources <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-find-free-or-cheap-health-resources" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Man getting his blood pressure taken" title="Man getting his blood pressure taken" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="156" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Free (or cheap) health resources are available if you know where to look. So don't ignore a nagging problem or skip a screening just because you think it's unaffordable. Even if you feel great and have plenty of spending money, you can access many of these online and community-based, face-to-face sources of healthcare and advice. (See also: <a href="">50 Ways to Squeeze Value From Your Healthcare Dollar</a>)</p> <p>Take these steps to find what resources are best suited for you and your family:&nbsp;</p> <ol> <li>Figure out what health care services you need based on screening guidelines, family medical history, and any health conditions.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Classify yourself (by physical characteristics or financial status), because some resources are available only to certain populations based on gender, race, income, or lack of eligibility for employer-sponsored insurance. Many resources, though, are available for free or at a low cost to everyone.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Explore community resources that may include full-service clinics as well as specialized screenings.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Make arrangements to access services, which may involve putting a health fair on your calendar, registering for a group session provided by a hospital outreach group, booking an appointment, or filling out paperwork.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>If you can afford the bill, pay now so that you can save money later. For example, establishing a relationship with a <a href="">primary care provider</a> (at a list price of a couple of hundred bucks or a co-pay of $10 to $25) means that you may have access to free services such as phone consultations. &nbsp;</li> </ol> <p>To learn about what types of health care you may need, locate screenings, or get treatment, check out these resources.</p> <h2>Online Resources<b><o:p></o:p></b></h2> <p>Online resources can be helpful in educating yourself so that you can solve some of your own health-related problems or better communicate with health care providers.</p> <h3></h3> <p>The <a href="">Family Doctor site</a> is run by the American Academy of Family Physicians and contains a <a href="">symptom checker</a> recommended by <a href="">Davis Liu, M.D</a>., board-certified family physician and author of <em>Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely</em>. Find your symptom and use the flowchart to figure out whether you need to seek medical help right now or whether you can safely take care of yourself at home.</p> <h3></h3> <p>Davis mentioned the <a href="">myhealthfinder widget</a>&nbsp;from <a href=""></a> as a great virtual place to figure out what&nbsp;screenings are recommended based on your age and gender. Use this information to discuss needs with your physician or guide you in identifying the free health care resources you need.</p> <h3>My Family Health Portrait</h3> <p>Create a family medical history using this online <a href="">family history tool</a> created by the Surgeon General. Give a copy to your physician and use this information to help you find free or low-cost screenings.</p> <h3></h3> <p>The <a href="">Mayo Clinic site</a> includes a wealth of information about various diseases and conditions, including symptoms, causes, risk factors, and advice on preparing for appointments. You can also find tips on preventing disease or managing conditions, such as exercise recommendations and heart-healthy recipes, as Marla discovered when <a href="">researching how to lower her cholesterol</a>.</p> <h2>Face-to-Face Resources</h2> <p>There are many free resources that are available on a regular basis to nearly anyone, from the penniless to the wealthy. A few are available sporadically, and just a handful require that you qualify for services based on financial status. Accessing these resources typically requires face-to-face visits or phone calls.</p> <h3>Pharmacists</h3> <p>The pharmacists at your local drugstore, whether independently owned or a chain store, are excellent resources on both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Face-to-face consultations on the purpose of a prescribed medication, contraindications (when you should never take the drug), side effects, etc. should be available when you pick up a prescription or over the phone, if you have questions later. In addition, many pharmacists provide advice on over-the-counter medications for minor illnesses if you can catch them when the pharmacy is not busy. Typically, the advice is free.</p> <h3>Hospital Outreach Centers</h3> <p>Many local hospitals have community outreach programs with sessions on the campus of the main facility or at a more convenient location such as a shopping mall. You can find a wide range of services that include educational sessions on wellness topics such as heart-healthy cooking classes or disease management, plus health screenings. One of the&nbsp;<a href="">local outreach centers</a>&nbsp;in my area offers specialized services such as foot evaluations for diabetes. Typically, you must register for a session or book an appointment to receive the free or low-cost screenings.</p> <p>To find out about services in your area, check out the community or wellness sections of your hospital's website, or call and ask about a calendar of events.</p> <h3>Health Fairs</h3> <p>When you visit a health fair or expo, you will meet various types of health care providers who offer their services at no charge and certain tests for free or at a reduced rate. These events are typically held at community gathering places, such as university and college campuses, houses of worship, and Y facilities. You may also find health fairs in corporate break rooms and cafeterias, though these are usually open to employees only.</p> <p>Health care services vary but tend to focus on screenings for heart disease and education, such as checks of blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. Many offer vision and hearing tests including glaucoma checks. Some events, such as a <a href="">local fair</a> in my area, are more comprehensive and offer lung function, sickle cell, and bone density checks. Plan your visit by matching the screenings you need with those offered. Expect that certain tests (like cholesterol checks, which benefit a large percentage of people) may require an appointment or a wait. If you need follow-up care, take the results to your physician or get a referral to a provider at the health fair.</p> <p>Check community newsletters and stay alert to announcements in the newspaper, on television, and via social media to find out about health fairs.</p> <h3>Schools</h3> <p>Schools and preschools offer screenings at specific times of the year (that is, they may screen students at the start of the school year or in the spring for fall enrollment). In my area, the schools offer screenings for speech and language development, vision, and dental health to children of preschool or school age in the community. Flu shots are offered to at-risk children, such as those who have asthma. Sports physicals are available for high school athletes; these are held at the school or a public health facility. Most services are free, including flu shots. There is a small charge ($10) for the sports physical.</p> <p>If you have children, check with your local school system to learn about services.</p> <h3>Blood Donation Sites</h3> <p>The American Red Cross collects blood at its regional offices and various community sites such as civic centers, high schools, houses of worship, and college campuses. On-site screenings include checks of your blood pressure, temperature, and hemoglobin. The services are free and are often accompanied by <a href="">free meals</a> or snacks, though you are expected to donate a pint of blood.</p> <h3>Community Health Clinics</h3> <p>Many communities have free (or nearly free) medical clinics available to area residents. Some offer primary care only, focusing on wellness checks, management of chronic disease, and treatment of injuries and illnesses. Others may have specialists on staff in areas such as cardiology, gastroenterology, and urology. Generally, these clinics do not offer emergency services.</p> <p>Services are typically free or charge a reduced fee on a sliding-scale basis. Some have strict eligibility requirements based on financial status and require patients to complete an application before setting an appointment, while other clinics accept patients on a come-as-you-are basis.</p> <p>In my area, the <a href="">Community Care Center</a> provides basic and specialty services to eligible patients. Charitable and religious organizations also run free clinics on a regular basis. To find a community health center, visit the <a href="">National Association of Health Centers website</a> or look for local listings of free or low-cost clinics.</p> <h3>Government Agencies</h3> <p>Government agencies fund community-based programs and health departments, which offer health care to area residents. Primary care services for certain populations are typically available. These may include well-child services, such as physicals and developmental assessments, or cancer screenings for women. Some services are free while others may be available on a sliding-scale basis.</p> <p>Find a health center using the search option on the <a href="">Health Resources and Services Administration</a> site or visit clinics associated with your local health department.</p> <h3>Disease-Specific Associations</h3> <p>These organizations are typically focused on research, advocacy, and awareness but may provide services directly to patients and their families. These services may include professional and peer advice on coping with your specific disease, transportation to and from medical appointments, rental of medical equipment, and medical supplies. Most services are free.</p> <p>Find a local chapter to receive guidance or help from organizations such as the <a href="">National MS Society</a> or <a href="">Alzheimer&rsquo;s Association</a>. Also, look for local agencies; in my area, <a href="">Cancer Services</a> provides support services to patients and their families.</p> <h3>Health Care Providers and Employers</h3> <p>Physician practices typically offer phone consultations to established patients at no charge. These calls may save you from spending money on an office visit. Some primary care physicians and orthopedists may provide you with information to perform at-home (or at-the-gym) physical therapy, saving you from spending on these services. Occasionally, practices offer free screenings on a limited basis, like <a href="">colonscopies by this GI practice</a>.</p> <p>Some employers offer <a href="">free or cheap screenings</a> periodically. They may also offer access to web-based or <a href="">telephone-based health services</a> for employees and their family members. Check your benefits package or ask your human resources manager about health and wellness services available for free.</p> <h3>Drug Companies</h3> <p>Most pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs that provide free medications to eligible patients. Typically, you will need to work with your health care provider to apply for the program.</p> <p>Visit <a href="">Needy Meds</a>, go to drug-makers' websites to find information and forms for these programs, or ask at your doctor's office about application procedures.</p> <h3>Non-Profit Organizations</h3> <p>Many non-profit organizations have resources that help patients with treatment. In my area, a ministry runs a <a href="">free pharmacy</a> for eligible clients, for example. Other services may include transportation to medical appointments, speech therapy, and corrective lenses.</p> <p>Some focus on specific diseases and provide free resources or fund the cost of these resources for patients, working in collaboration with community groups. For example, <a href="">Sister, Speak!</a> provides breast cancer awareness and free mammograms through funding from the Komen Foundation. A <a href="">women's group</a> associated with the foundation of a local hospital funds health programs that include free screening for osteoporosis and anemia.</p> <p>Ask your friends about resources they may have discovered or check with The Office of Minority Health, which <a href=";lvlID=18">links to patient resources nationwide</a>.</p> <p>Planning is useful in accessing many of these resources, so anticipating your needs can help save money and protect your health. But even if you are in a hurry or have had an unexpected need, online resources can help you figure out your next step for free.</p> <p><em>Are there free or really cheap health resources that you use? Tell us about them in the comments.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Find Free (or Cheap) Health Resources" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty free health resources health care healthcare Mon, 16 Jan 2012 11:24:16 +0000 Julie Rains 862036 at 10 Things You Do to Save Money That End Up Costing You More <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-things-you-do-to-save-money-that-end-up-costing-you-more" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Man with shopping bags" title="Man with shopping bags" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="150" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Have you heard of the expression &ldquo;Penny Wise, Pound Foolish?&rdquo; It&rsquo;s something I heard a lot growing up from my parents, and it can have multiple meanings:</p> <ol> <li>You are very careful with small amounts of money, but throw caution to the wind with large amounts. This is akin to someone who eats from the dollar menu every day but then blows a hundred dollars every month on a gym membership that&rsquo;s never used.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>You do things to save money now, only to have those savings cost you more further down the road.</li> </ol> <p>The second definition is what I&rsquo;m focusing on today, because it&rsquo;s a lot easier to fall into the trap of saving money only to have it bite you later on. Here then are 10 ways that you may be doing to save money that could actually cost you a lot more in the weeks, months, or years to come. (See also: <a href="">The Case for Expensive Shoes</a>)</p> <p><img width="605" height="371" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>1. Avoiding Regular Check-Ups With the Doctor, Dentist or Optician</h3> <p>It&rsquo;s something I did in college when money was tight. &ldquo;Ahh, who needs to pay money to a dentist to have him tell me I should floss more?&rdquo; Well, after leaving the dentist alone for a few years, I paid the price. Avoiding the regular cleanings and check-ups left me facing a hefty bill later on when I needed a bunch of costly fillings. I was lucky that I didn&rsquo;t need root canals or replacement teeth. Now I have a dental plan that covers free check-ups twice a year, but even if you don&rsquo;t, get to the dentist and doctor for health checks. It&rsquo;s a lot better to pay a co-pay now than pay for major surgery later on. And worse still, it could even cost you your life, especially as so many conditions can be treated if they&rsquo;re caught early enough.</p> <h3>2. Taking Store Credit Card Offers for Discounts, but Paying the Minimum</h3> <p>You are probably asked this all the time &mdash; &ldquo;Would you like to sign up for our credit card today and save 30% instantly on your purchase?&rdquo; It&rsquo;s a good deal, IF you actually pay off the credit card in full when you get the first statement. Sadly, when that first statement arrives, many people find it way to easy to avoid the pay-off amount and instead pay the much smaller minimum payment. Before long, you&rsquo;re paying the minimum every month, adding more to the store card, and you&rsquo;re suddenly a credit card revolver who is paying hefty interest charges. That initial 30% you saved can cost you so much more if you&rsquo;re not careful. Pay it late, just once, and you can add late fees and interest rate hikes to your burden.</p> <h3>3. Doing Your Own Taxes</h3> <p>Many people use software like TurboTax and TaxCut, and they do save a bunch on an accountant. These software programs are OK for very basic tax preparation. But if you have anything slightly more complex, it&rsquo;s well worth your time to hire a tax professional to file your return. These people are trained in the minutia of the lengthy tax codes, and they can find deductions are tax exemptions that you have no idea about. And while the software may be able to take these into consideration, you need to know what you can actually legally deduct before entering it. I have a tax accountant, she charges around $250 to prepare my taxes, and she has saved my thousands over the years. She asks questions that the software doesn&rsquo;t, and she knows how to get me the biggest possible refund. I would never trust tax software over her for my situation, despite the massive initial saving. And remember, tax preparation fees are also tax deductible the following year!</p> <h3>4. Building an Emergency Fund, but Not Contributing to a Retirement Plan</h3> <p>It&rsquo;s essential these days to have an <a href="">emergency fund</a>. The finance experts say you need six months to one year of expenses (although how anyone does that in this dire economy, with pay raises not meeting inflation and massive unemployment, is something of a miracle). But experts also agree that you need to look after your financial future, as you cannot rely on any kind of state pension. If you&rsquo;re squirreling away money now into an emergency fund or savings account, but you&rsquo;re not putting money into a 401(k), IRA, or other long-term savings plan, you&rsquo;re not prepared for something you know is coming &mdash; old age. And with compound interest being what it is, every day you put it off is thousands of dollars wasted. If your employer has a 401(k) match, that&rsquo;s also additional money you are throwing away. &nbsp;Be smart, think long term. Once you have that in place, by all means build your emergency fund.</p> <p><img width="605" height="385" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>5. Buying the Cheapest Products to Save Money</h3> <p>I&rsquo;ve said it before, I&rsquo;ll say it again &mdash; buy cheap, buy twice. Now, being a Wise Bread blogger does not mean I don&rsquo;t like quality items; I just don&rsquo;t like to pay retail for them. Almost everything I buy is well below the <a href="">RRP or MSRP</a>, but it&rsquo;s usually a well-made product with a good rating. That goes for clothes, shoes, electronics, tools &mdash; you name it. However, if you buy a screwdriver set for $1 at a dollar store, or get your shoes for a few bucks at a flea market stall, the chances are you&rsquo;ll be buying them again real soon. Cheaply made, poor-quality items may save you a few bucks in the short term, but you&rsquo;ll only have to pay more later to replace them. And if you replace them with more cheap junk, you&rsquo;ll be repeating the cycle. You get what you pay for. The only time I would say that this is not true is buying generic brands in the grocery stores. In that case, you&rsquo;re usually buying the same product that&rsquo;s in the name-brand tin or packet but for half the price.&nbsp;</p> <h3>6. Putting No Money in the Parking Meter Because &ldquo;I&rsquo;ll Be Back Quick!&rdquo;&nbsp;</h3> <p>You may be a world-class speedy shopper or errand runner, but you just aren&rsquo;t that lucky. Sooner or later, and probably sooner, if you try and dodge the parking meters, you will get a ticket. These days, a parking ticket can run you anywhere from $10 to $50, depending on which city you live in. Is it worth gambling that 25 cents for a ticket?</p> <h3>7. Getting Suckered Into BOGO Deals and Other Sales</h3> <p><a href="">BOGO</a>, when it&rsquo;s genuine, is hard to resist. But even then, whether it&rsquo;s BOGO free or BOGO half price, you have to stop and ask yourself &ldquo;would I really have bought this much of this item at this price anyway?&rdquo; For instance, if you go to a store looking for jam, and you see BOGO free on jam, that&rsquo;s probably a great time to stock up. But if you&rsquo;re looking for a new pair of sneakers and see BOGO half off, stop and think. You went out looking to spend $60 on sneakers. Now you&rsquo;re spending about $100 after taxes. Did you even want two pairs? Will you wear them both? Do you even like the second pair you&rsquo;re buying? Sure, it can be a great deal, but if you really only want, and need, one pair, you should only buy one pair.</p> <p>Also, be careful when exploring the sales. It&rsquo;s easy to see those 75% off stickers and go crazy, thinking you&rsquo;re saving money. If you are planning to resell the item for a profit, go for it. But don&rsquo;t think that you&rsquo;ll get anything near full price for it somewhere else; there&rsquo;s a reason it&rsquo;s on sale. And if you are just tempted to buy it because it&rsquo;s cheap, ask yourself &quot;would I have bought this if it were more expensive?&quot; I see so many people <a href="">buying bargains that just gather dust in the basement</a>. And they would happily sell them for the price they paid just to have that money back.</p> <h3>8. Driving Miles and Miles for Cheaper Gas or Other Bargains</h3> <p>At the time of writing this article, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.28. And the average vehicle MPG is around 23. That gives you around 7 miles for every dollar you spend on gas. <a href="">Do the math.</a> For example, if you want to put 10 gallons of gas in your car, and drive four miles out of your way to buy gas that is five cents cheaper per gallon, you have spent 57 cents to save 50 cents. And you&rsquo;ve wasted your time, put more wear on your tires, and used up oil life as well. True, it&rsquo;s not a lot, but in the grand scheme of things, it&rsquo;s just not worth it. I&rsquo;ve also talked to people who traveled 30-40 miles, one way, to buy something used from Craigslist. So right there, you&rsquo;re adding up to $10 to the cost of the item you&rsquo;re buying.</p> <p><img width="605" height="467" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>9. Avoiding Routine Car Maintenance</h3> <p>Most of us use a car to get to work. It's something that we need to make money. It&rsquo;s also something that needs regular maintenance, just like your own body. But many of us like to save that money and do only the basics. We&rsquo;ll take it in for an oil change, run it through the car wash, and that&rsquo;s about it. Of course, then the time comes to get your next oil change, and the mechanic has to inform you that your tires are worn on one side because you didn&rsquo;t rotate them. Or you discover that little knocking sound you ignored needs a major repair. When it comes to cars, the old adage &ldquo;a stitch in time saves nine&rdquo; couldn&rsquo;t be more true. Take care of your car, and it will take care of you.</p> <h3>10. Buying Food in Bulk and Then Throwing Half of It Away</h3> <p>I&rsquo;m guilty of this one from time-to-time because bargains are so hard to pass up. When you see a whole bunch of bananas on sale for less than half the price, you grab them. But then you watch them turn black because you bought too many. I have lost count of the food items I have bought over my lifetime that I never got a chance to use. Ironically, when I was a poor student, it didn&rsquo;t happen. I would shop from day to day, buying fresh produce and cooking it that night. It would last two or three meals and then I&rsquo;d start again. The fridge was bare. These days, I have so much stuff in the fridge I don&rsquo;t know what&rsquo;s in there, and I think that&rsquo;s a big problem. We load up on cheap bulk items and then have no way of using it all. So, while buying in bulk is good for lots of things, be careful when buying perishables. It&rsquo;s not a bargain if you throw it away.</p> <p>Well, that&rsquo;s my top ten list, based on a lot of my own personal experiences. Do you have any stories of being penny wise, pound foolish? Chime in.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Things You Do to Save Money That End Up Costing You More" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Paul Michael</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living cheap health care impulse shopping Mistakes Thu, 05 Jan 2012 11:36:16 +0000 Paul Michael 854221 at Don’t Waste Your Money on Homeopathic “Remedies” <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/don-t-waste-your-money-on-homeopathic-remedies" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="water glasses" title="water glasses" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I&rsquo;m sure I&rsquo;ll get some serious verbal abuse for this one, but I can stay silent on this no longer. I&rsquo;ve been following this homeopathic trend for years now, and I am convinced that it is nothing but a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that delivers empty promises and fake cures. Worse than that, I think it&rsquo;s dangerous, and it rips people off. (See also: <a href="">Job-Search Scams That Target High Performers</a>)</p> <p>To understand where I'm coming from, you would first need to understand what homeopathic medicine is. It&rsquo;s important to note that homeopathy should not be confused with natural cures. By that I mean herbal remedies, vitamins, minerals, and so on. No, I fully believe that our planet contains a wealth of natural cures that can do the body a world of good. My article about <a href="">witch hazel</a> is a good example of that.</p> <p>Homeopathy was started over 200 years ago in 1796 by <a href="">Samuel Hahnemann</a>, a German physician. It basically takes minute doses of what you are suffering from, and then dilutes it repeatedly in water. For example, if you have a cold and the symptoms are similar to those caused by Mercury poisoning, then 1 part Mercury is diluted with 1,000,000,000,000 parts of water. That&rsquo;s your cure. And regardless of your symptoms, that&rsquo;s the cure you are given. The premise is that water has memory, and the more diluted the remedy, the more powerful the cure becomes.</p> <p>There are four general parts of homeopathy. They are:</p> <ol> <li>The proving. This is explained more below.</li> <li>Matching the symptoms of a patient to the proving and using that as a basis for the treatment.</li> <li>NOT giving the patient the substance found from the proving, but an incredibly diluted form of it.</li> <li>The final product (I hate to say medicine) gets stronger the more diluted it is.</li> </ol> <p>Now, what&rsquo;s a proving? Basically, you take a completely healthy person and give them a known substance. You then record any symptoms that arise from prescribing that substance by observing and asking numerous questions. And then you use that substance to reverse those symptoms. For example, if you give someone caffeine and they have trouble falling asleep, caffeine is used to treat people who can&rsquo;t fall asleep.</p> <p>Therefore, highly diluted caffeine becomes a sleeping pill! See what I mean by mumbo-jumbo?</p> <p>You can read all about homeopathy on the&nbsp;<a href="">&nbsp;ABC Homeopathy website</a>&nbsp;and at&nbsp;<a href=""></a>. These are just a couple of the many sites devoted to the subject, and I don&rsquo;t want anyone to think that my &ldquo;oversimplification&rdquo; of this medicine is not doing it justice.</p> <h3>The Big Issue &mdash; It&rsquo;s All Done on Faith&nbsp;</h3> <p>Scientists around the world have tested millions of different homeopathic remedies ad nauseam. They have found no active ingredients within these cures. In fact, they are usually just water.</p> <p>&ldquo;Ah yes&rdquo; the homeopathic practitioner will say. &ldquo;But you cannot test for the efficacy of this medicine. You cannot test for something that is not picked up by modern scientific methods. You cannot test for water memory.&rdquo;</p> <p>How handy. You can&rsquo;t test for the tooth fairy either, but I&rsquo;m fairly sure that relying on one to deliver money for your old teeth will leave you very disappointed.</p> <p>So if you cannot test for it, how can people who dispense these medicines stand behind them? Well, they have proof in the form of patients who have been cured by the medicines they prescribed.</p> <p>Unfortunately, that doesn&rsquo;t really stand up because in legitimate studies, the results of homeopathy fared no better than sugar pills and placebos. The water given by homeopaths is as effective as curing disease and illness as, well, water! What are the odds?</p> <p>There are stories of people who swear by it though. And people make careers from this pseudo-science. How is that possible? Well, the mind is a powerful thing, so it is believable that we can cure ourselves if we actually believe something is working. But does that give these people the right to charge gullible people an arm and a leg for a bottle of water or packet of sugar pills?</p> <h3>Prove Me Wrong and Get $1 Million!</h3> <p>This is where homeopathy has the chance to prove itself, and if you practice it, please come forward and defend your chosen profession. James Randi is <a href="">giving away $1 million</a> to anyone who can prove that homeopathy actually works. It's all part of something called <a href="">the 1023 Challenge,</a> which I urge you to read more about.</p> <p>Now, you can't just submit affidavits from people swearing it really did work, because that&rsquo;s not evidence. No court in the land would accept that as proof. You need to submit hard evidence that homeopathic cures actually do what they are supposed to do.</p> <p>I don&rsquo;t see anyone coming forward though, and that&rsquo;s because it cannot be proven. It&rsquo;s the stuff of witch doctors and fancy imaginations.</p> <p>For instance, thousands of people have proven the ineffectiveness of the homeopathic sleeping pills by taking a huge overdose of them. (The recommended dosage is two, by the way.) <a href="">And the results?</a></p> <p>No one died. No one got even remotely sleepy. Nothing happened to anyone because there are no active ingredients in these products. It&rsquo;s all nonsense. The fact that there is an overdose warning on the pill box is laughable. You can&rsquo;t overdose on nothing.</p> <h3>The Real Danger Here Is for the Patient</h3> <p>My biggest beef with homeopathy is that people with genuine illnesses put their trust (and money) into useless medicines. It&rsquo;s dangerous to think that you can treat illnesses with anything that has been diluted so much that it is now just plain water. It&rsquo;s wrong, it should be against the law and I for one would support any act that did so. In fact, there are some diseases that homeopaths and homeopathic remedies are not allowed to treat.</p> <p>For instance: &ldquo;In 1996, oncologist Vincent Speckhart, MD, was ordered to pay the widow of deceased patient Robert Rizzi $235,715. Rizzi's widow charged that Speckhart led her husband to believe that homeopathy was enough to cure him of his Hodgkin's disease after Rizzi refused further chemotherapy because of side effects.&rdquo; You can read more about that on this page about <a href="">legal issues in homeopathy.</a> I have also posted some links to videos below that I hope will open your eyes somewhat. But please, if you have any kind of real proof that homeopathy works, let&rsquo;s hear it. I will be the first to admit that I was wrong.</p> <p>Somehow, I think that&rsquo;s about as likely as a diluted caffeine pill <a href="">putting me to sleep</a>. So unless someone offers you real, hard evidence that homeopathic remedies actually work, don't waste your money on them. You'll sleep better.</p> <p><em>Further viewing:</em></p> <ul> <li><a href=";feature=related">James Randy Explains Homeopathy</a></li> <li><a href=";feature=related">Homeopathy and Malaria</a></li> </ul> <p><strong> </strong></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Don’t Waste Your Money on Homeopathic “Remedies”" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Paul Michael</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Consumer Affairs articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Health and Beauty alternative medicine health care homeopathic scams Thu, 10 Feb 2011 13:00:06 +0000 Paul Michael 489471 at Buying Individual Dental Insurance Online: My Experience <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/buying-individual-dental-insurance-online-my-experience" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Girl with braces" title="Girl with braces" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="256" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>My spouse changed jobs earlier this year, and with that came new insurance. I would have to pay 100% to be included on her dental plan, so I did some shopping around to find my own individual dental insurance.</p> <p>First I called my dentist to find out what they would charge me for a regular cleaning visit: $115. While $230/year is not unaffordable, I was curious to see how this compared to my other options.</p> <p>I next considered the option through my spouse's work. It would cost $30/month ($360/year) and give me $1,000 worth of coverage with a $100 deductible. Cleanings would be free. Spending an extra $130 didn't seem worth it to me.</p> <p>Then I shopped around for individual dental insurance. On <a href="">eHealthInsurance</a> I found an individual dental insurance plan for $20/month. It was nearly the same as the one I would get through my spouse's employer but with lower coverage. Cleanings would be free. So would X-rays and topical fluoride. But the coverage was only $500/year.</p> <p>Some people might argue that at this price point, there really isn't a major benefit to getting dental insurance. But for $10/year more than I would spend on cleanings, it seemed worth it to me for several reasons. First, I'm religious about my two-times-a-year cleanings, so I wouldn't be buying something I wouldn't use. Second, if I did need a root canal, cavity filling, or some other form of unexpected treatment, I&nbsp;would have $500 worth of coverage f<em>or only $10 more a year</em>. This independent dental insurance was what I ended up buying.</p> <p>I found the process to be less time-consuming and frustrating than I thought it might be. The site was straightforward to use, and it had awesome comparison charts. Unlike health insurance, dental insurance seems fairly simple (there aren't a lot of preexisting conditions or exceptions to worry about).&nbsp;</p> <p>The verdict? I will definitely continue with my independent dental insurance coverage until I have a group plan through an employer.</p> <p>What has been your experience with finding individual dental insurance?</p> <p><em>Disclaimer: The eHealthInsurance links contain affiliate codes. I&nbsp;had a great experience buying through them and would recommend that you take a look if you are considering buying dental insurance.&nbsp;</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Buying Individual Dental Insurance Online: My Experience" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Elizabeth Lang</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Insurance articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty Insurance dental insurance dentist health care healthcare Tue, 16 Nov 2010 12:00:11 +0000 Elizabeth Lang 297374 at FINANCIAL IQ TEST: How Healthy Is Your Health Care Plan? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/financial-iq-test-how-healthy-is-your-health-care-plan" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="health care" title="health care" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="165" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Health care is big business in the States, and when your health is on the line, you want to be on the right end of that business stick. Your health care plan goes beyond the selection and payment of an insurance plan though; some people choose to self-insure, some have more than one insurance choice, and others yet are creatively resourceful with their options, tax breaks, cost-cutting, and getting free advice.</p> <p>Following is a Financial IQ Test to help you determine how healthy your health care management plan is. <strong>Simply look at each statement, and answer it with a YES, NO, or NOT SURE.</strong> Keep track of your answers, and we'll see how you score at the end. Then, check out the resource articles below to increase your knowledge base.</p> <h2>FINANCIAL IQ TEST: How Healthy is your Health Care Plan?</h2> <h3>Comparison Shopping</h3> <p>I&rsquo;ve compared monthly to annual insurance rates and chosen the most cost-effective option.</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve weighed out the pros and cons of having dental and vision insurance coverage, and I only have insurance if I know I can&rsquo;t self-insure for it.</p> <p>I know what Health Care Centers will charge based on my income.</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve priced out options to have major procedures done in a foreign country.</p> <p>If I&rsquo;m traveling or have a minor issue that requires medical attention, I understand what Retail Health Clinics can offer me.</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve compared my insurance coverage with my spouse&rsquo;s coverage, and we&rsquo;ve selected the best plan for both of us.</p> <h3>Record Keeping</h3> <p>I keep accurate records of all my medical correspondence and transactions, plus copies of originals I&rsquo;ve submitted for insurance claims &ndash; just in case.</p> <p>I review any reimbursement checks for health care to ensure it was properly processed.</p> <h3>Researching and Seeking Advice</h3> <p>I research my symptoms online before seeing a doctor.</p> <p>I check with the pharmacist about non-urgent symptoms and medications for free advice before seeing a doctor.</p> <p>I research my physician&rsquo;s diagnosis and prescriptions before spending more money.</p> <h3>Health Care Hacks</h3> <p>I call my doctor&rsquo;s office to ask about non-urgent problems before scheduling an appointment. (Sometimes an appointment isn&rsquo;t necessary.)</p> <p>I take advantage of free tests and screenings (eg: blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer screenings) at health fairs or pharmacies.</p> <p>When I donate blood, I take advantage of the free readings (eg: blood pressure, iron, etc).</p> <p>I keep my prescription costs low by selecting the generic instead of name-brand drugs.</p> <p>Before taking a prescription, I ask my doctor if there is a free sample I can have.</p> <p>For dental and vision care, I visit student clinics and colleges to reduce my expenses.</p> <p>If I don&rsquo;t have insurance, I advise my doctor of it and ask if they can give me a discount.</p> <p>I use Planned Parenthood centers for inexpensive reproductive checks including for STDs, birth control, etc.</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve asked about financial aid to help with any onerous medical bills I&rsquo;m paying.</p> <h3>Tax Savings</h3> <p>I take advantage of tax deductions with a Health Savings Account (if applicable to me).</p> <p>I keep track of my medical expenses so I can get related tax breaks when I file.</p> <p>I understand the benefits of a High Deductible Health Plan in combination with a Health Savings Account.</p> <h2>Scoring</h2> <p>Did you keep track of how many times you answered YES, NO, and NOT SURE? Great! Give yourself the following points for each answer:</p> <p><strong>YES = 4 points</strong></p> <p><strong>NO = 0 points</strong></p> <p><strong>NOT SURE = 2 points</strong></p> <h2>Analysis</h2> <h3><strong>0-31 &ndash; Could be healthier</strong></h3> <p>You don&rsquo;t even know <em>what</em> you don&rsquo;t know about maximizing your health care plan! You may be able to save some big dollars on health insurance, medical expenses, and taxes by taking the time to read up on and research your options. Check out the articles below for starters. Don&rsquo;t stick your head in the sand and wait for a medical crisis to whip you into shape &ndash; do it now!</p> <h3><strong>32-63 &ndash; Do you know all your options?</strong></h3> <p>You&rsquo;re not quite a health care expert yet. Are you aware of the health care hacks you can use to maximize your money, the various health clinics and their fees, and how you best fit into the fray? Are you keeping accurate records and getting the right advice? If any of the questions in the quiz stumped you, check out the relevant articles below to start your research.</p> <h3><strong>64-92 &ndash; Researching and Hacking</strong></h3> <p>Becoming your own health care expert is an evolution. And even when you think you know everything, new changes and legislations come into play that keep the learning curve going. But you&rsquo;re already towards the top of your curve, so pat yourself on the back, before hitting the books (or rather, web sites) again to make sure you continue to get the most for your health care dollars.</p> <h2>Health Care Articles to Improve your Score</h2> <p><a href="">Health Insurance &mdash; Two Other Numbers to Look at</a></p> <p><a href="">Don&rsquo;t Cash That Insurance Check &ndash; It May Not be Yours</a></p> <p><a href="">Things to Insure, Things Not to Insure</a></p> <p><a href="">Health Insurance Costs too High, Alternative Not Pretty</a></p> <p><a href="">I&rsquo;ve Lived Both Sides of the Healthcare System. This is What I&rsquo;ve Learned</a></p> <p><a href="">Stay Healthy, Live Longer: Spend Wisely Making Intelligent Choices in America&rsquo;s Healthcare System</a></p> <p><a href="">50 Ways to Squeeze Value from your Healthcare Dollar Without Killing Yourself</a></p> <p><a href="">5 Place to Check Out Medical Care for the Uninsured</a></p> <p><a href="">Cost Comparison: Emergency Rooms vs Urgent Care</a></p> <p><a href="">The Online Doctor: A Good Use of your Health Care Dollar</a></p> <p><a href="">Generic Drugs: Not Always the Same</a></p> <p><a href="">I&rsquo;m Fleeing the Country for Healthcare</a></p> <p><a href="">Medical Tourism 101: Listen Live for Big Savings</a></p> <p><a href="">3 Times to Consider Declining your Employer&rsquo;s Health Coverage</a></p> <p><a href="">The Best 4-Step Plan to Manage your Medical Correspondence</a></p> <p><a href="">Walgreens Clinics Provide Free Health Care for the Very Recently Unemployed</a></p> <p><a href="">Will a Dental Discount Plan Save you Money?</a></p> <p><a href="">Make Cents of Healthcare With a Plan</a></p> <h2>Other FINANCIAL IQ Tests on Wise Bread:</h2> <p><a href="">FINANCIAL IQ TEST: How Healthy is your Debt Management?</a></p> <p><a href="">FINANCIAL IQ TEST: How Healthy are your Bank Accounts?</a></p> <p><a href="">FINANCIAL IQ TEST: How Healthy is your Budget?</a></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="FINANCIAL IQ TEST: How Healthy Is Your Health Care Plan?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Nora Dunn</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty financial IQ Test health care Sat, 20 Mar 2010 17:00:05 +0000 Nora Dunn 5925 at 3 Times to Consider Declining Your Employer's Health Coverage <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/3-times-to-consider-declining-your-employers-health-coverage" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="time clock" title="time clock" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="414" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Open enrollment is right around the corner, and with it comes your opportunity to make decisions that could dictate your medical expenses for an entire year. Is considering dropping your employer-provided coverage &mdash; medical, vision, or dental &mdash; one of the choices you should be thinking about?</p> <p>First, a disclaimer: We are not suggesting that you should ever go without core medical insurance when you have the opportunity to be covered. Giving up employer-based medical insurance when there is nothing to replace it with is foolish, and we wouldn't want anyone to misinterpret our message. With that said, there are times when exploring options other than the coverage offered in your employer's benefits package can be prudent and even to your budget's advantage.</p> <p>For decades, conventional wisdom was that if your employer offered you any type of medical, dental, or vision coverage as part of your benefits package, you took it. It didn't matter if it was fully or partially subsidized by your employer, or what was included in the coverage. The only choice you made, in some cases, was which of the coverage options to choose &mdash; the deluxe package, the no-frills package, or perhaps something in between.</p> <p>Enter the age of consistent and significant insurance premium increases. As the focus on reducing employers' medical costs has become one of their primary cost-cutting technique, the cost has been passed on to employees and consumers. Some decry the reduction in employee benefits while others argue it is a good thing that consumers now have more control over their healthcare dollars. Whatever the case, the odds are that you have a higher monthly premium for a medical coverage package that covers less than it did before.</p> <p>So when is it smart to defy conventional wisdom and go your own way on health coverage? Is employer-provided health coverage always a no-brainer, even when its out-of-pocket cost to you becomes several thousand dollars per year? We answer these questions by outlining three instances, which are becoming increasingly common, when you may want to consider dropping your employer's health insurance as part of your benefits package.</p> <h3>1. You can find less expensive medical insurance on the open market.</h3> <p>Few people actually compare the price of their employer-based health insurance with getting a policy on their own. Now that some lower-cost insurance vehicles are catching on, it is worth doing some price shopping.</p> <p>High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs), when coupled with a Health Savings Account (HSA) give consumers a different way of managing their health costs. In exchange for a higher deductible (typically between $1,200 and $2,500), you receive lower monthly insurance premiums and the ability to participate in an HSA. HSAs allow consumers to set aside pre-tax dollars in an account that behaves like a 401k, except instead of using it for retirement it is used for healthcare expenses.</p> <p>The idea of finding a customized HDHP / HSA combo on the open market might be most appealing for those who work for smaller employers. The <a href="">Kaiser Family Foundation</a> found that in 2008, one-third of the firms with fewer than 200 employees offered their employees insurance plans with deductibles of over $1,000. When your deductible is already in four figures, you have more to gain and more immediate savings by switching to a good plan that you find on your own.</p> <p>When should you not opt out of your employer-based medical insurance? First, it probably doesn't make sense to switch just to save just $10 or $20 per month &mdash; it won't be worth it. Changing to your own insurance probably only makes sense if you are going to save $100 or more per month on premiums. It depends on your particular situation, but when you are covered by your employer's insurance, you may have a deductible as low as $250 or $500, and copays in the $10 to $20 range. The difference between those deductibles and what you would be responsible for in a HDHP probably offsets the premium savings you would experience in marginal cases. When the monthly premium savings moves north of $100, however, it is worth a second look.</p> <p>Be sure to look at your and your family's particular insurance usage as well. If someone in the family has a particular condition that is well-covered by your employer-based insurance, such as a therapy or an expensive prescription, you are probably smart to hold on to it as long as you can.</p> <h3>2. Your vision or dental coverage is more than just a few dollars per month.</h3> <p>Vision and dental coverage are sometimes overrated parts of an employee benefits package. While it is great to have these services covered by insurance, it is important to keep in mind that these plans don't always cover much, and usually leave a hefty amount of the medical cost up to the patient to cover anyway.</p> <p>Take a common dental procedure as a case-in-point. A cleaning and x-rays at a recent dental checkup had a charge of $250. Of that, the patient was responsible for 40%. A second cleaning during the year was $125, for which the patient also paid 40%. Of $375 in total dental charges, $150 of it was borne by the patient and $225 by the insurer.</p> <p>Given that the insurer only covered $225 of costs, it begs the question of the value that the patient is really getting in return for the insurance premium. Keep in mind that in the examples above, no fillings or other dental work was needed. That could change the equation substantially in either direction, depending on the finer points of the plan. Current benefits studies, such as <a href="">this one by The Access Project</a> focusing on rural health, found that the out-of-pocket dental expenditures of insured patients and non-insured patients was about equal for similar care, when adding in the cost of insurance premiums.</p> <p>What about major dental or vision injuries or diseases? Eye or jaw injuries and eye diseases are most often covered by medical insurance, not by your vision or dental. When it comes down to it, vision and dental insurance cover a pretty small slice of all the things that could go wrong with you medically. Similarly, big-ticket items like orthodontia are often covered with low payment caps or not covered at all. If your insurance is the exception when it comes to braces, consider yourself lucky!</p> <p>Of course, getting preventative vision and dental care can help spot problems early on can help you maintain a higher quality of life. Just remember, you don't necessarily have to have vision and dental coverage to get good vision and dental care. Self-insuring for routine dental care might not be such a bad idea, especially if your insurer burdens you with high premiums. To get even more value, paying for all dental and vision expenses through your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) will allow you to use pre-tax dollars for the care.</p> <h3>3. You have access to less-expensive, high-quality coverage through your spouse or an affiliation.</h3> <p>This may seem like a no-brainer &mdash; of course you would use different insurance if it was cheaper and better than what your employer offered you. We've become such a nation of employer-based healthcare benefits, however, that it is worth mentioning.</p> <p>The most likely place to look for alternative insurance is with your spouse if you are married, or with your partner if your employer's plan offers partner benefits (more than half of all large companies do). Insurance plans offered to employees vary greatly, mainly based on company size but sometimes due to the company's discretion. If you and your spouse are fortunate enough to have your open enrollment periods line up at the same time, make the insurance of selection a joint decision rather than automatically signing up for each respective plan. Some employers will even pay an employee a portion of the money saved on insurance premiums if they forego the insurance plan &mdash; but they will often want to see proof that the employee will be covered elsewhere.</p> <p>When comparing plans, look past the obvious premium differences. A colleague once concluded that she and her husband had pretty much identical health plans based on premiums and out-of-pocket costs. But when studying the fine print, they discovered that his insurance covered a routine therapy that a child needed, while hers did not. That made the value equation tilt strongly in favor of covering the entire family under his plan.</p> <p>Other places to look for coverage are with Tricare or the VA if you are in the military or a Veteran. These plans often offer excellent coverage, but may require you to use their health facilities if you live near one.</p> <p>The bottom line: Being your own patient advocate, price-shopping for medical services, and <a href="">using low-cost generics and walk-in clinics</a> can help reduce your cost of healthcare once you are already sick. Doing your homework during open enrollment, however, may help you score your biggest healthcare savings of the entire year. Take it seriously and do your homework, and you just may find that you can score some major savings for you and your family.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="3 Times to Consider Declining Your Employer&#039;s Health Coverage" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is a guest post by Heather Johnson, Director with <a title="" href="" mce_href="" target="_blank"></a>.</p> <p>Links to more on HealthHarbor:</p> <ul type="disc"> <li><a title="Saving Money at the Doctor's Office" href="" mce_href="" target="_blank">Saving Money at the Doctor's Office</a></li> <li><a title="Dealing With a Bad Health&amp;nbsp;Insurance Company" href="" mce_href="" target="_blank">Dealing With a Bad Health&nbsp;Insurance Company</a></li> <li><a title="Interactive Tool for Finding&amp;nbsp;Discounted Generic&amp;nbsp;Drugs&amp;nbsp;" href="" mce_href="" target="_blank">Interactive Tool for Finding&nbsp;Discounted Generic&nbsp;Drugs </a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Heather Johnson</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty health care health insurance healthcare Mon, 12 Oct 2009 14:00:03 +0000 Heather Johnson 3691 at Funny Taste Mystery: Using Google for Medical Diagnoses <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/funny-taste-mystery-using-google-for-medical-diagnoses" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Mouth and Tounge" title="Mouth and Tounge" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I have just recovered from a case of pine nut mouth, or at least that's what I'm calling a recent health hiccup.</p> <p>And I have Google to thank for saving me thousands of dollars, countless trips to doctors, and plenty of time worrying.</p> <p>It started about a week ago.&nbsp; One morning I woke up, poured a bowl of generic brand Cheerios for breakfast, and seriously considered throwing the bowl out due to their terrible aftertaste.&nbsp; I decided that it was a burned batch and having nothing else breakfast-worthy I begrudgingly finished the bowl.</p> <p>But at lunch time, my leftover stir-fry didn't taste good either.&nbsp; And by dinner I could only conclude that something was wrong with me.&nbsp; Everything I ate had a terrible, terrible aftertaste.&nbsp; Things just tasted funny.</p> <p>That night I did a salt water rinse and brushed and flossed by teeth carefully, assuming that whatever it was would be gone by the next day.&nbsp; I woke up the next morning and - forgetting about the bad taste in my mouth - made some toast.&nbsp; I spit it out and quickly gulped down some tea.&nbsp; The bitter taste was concentrated solely on the back of my tongue and the roof of my mouth and happened only after eating or drinking.&nbsp; It was one of the strangest things I had ever experienced. </p> <p>Normally I would make a quick call to my physician's nurse to see if making an appointment is necessary.&nbsp; But since moving I haven't yet found a primary care doctor.</p> <p>So, I turned to Google.&nbsp; This is not&nbsp; something I usually do for medical issues.&nbsp; Typically one finds horror stories of all the worst possible things a symptom could point towards.</p> <p>But, I searched anyway.&nbsp; Something along the lines of &quot;funny taste in mouth back of tongue roof of mouth aftertaste.&quot;&nbsp; Definitely not a logical search, but I was desperate.&nbsp;&nbsp; Reading through several forums I cam across countless possible causes -- from acid reflux to infections to neurological diseases.&nbsp; But then <strong>someone mentioned pine nuts</strong>.</p> <p>I had made homemade pesto the night before the funny taste started -- using recently purchased pine nuts.</p> <p>So I did some more Googling.&nbsp; &quot;Pine nut mouth&quot; turns out to be a fairly common problem.&nbsp; A medical journal <a href=";issue=03000&amp;article=00036&amp;type=fulltext">published an article about it&nbsp;</a> and Wikipedia even <a href="">references the issue</a>.&nbsp; No conclusions are drawn about exactly what causes pine nut taste disturbances or how to get rid of it.&nbsp; But people report this funny taste lasting for a week or more.&nbsp; Mine lasted about 6 days.</p> <p>Had I not spent 20 minutes searching on Google, I would have no doubt eventually gone to a regular doctor, then an ENT, had tests run, and spent a lot of money.&nbsp; All because of pine nuts. </p> <p>I would never advocate using Google to diagnose your most serious medical problems.&nbsp; And relying on the internet for any sort of health answers can be dangerous.&nbsp; But, as with my pine nut conundrum, sometimes self diagnosing on the internet can be very beneficial.</p> <p>Here are a few tips for more effective medical searching:</p> <ol> <li>Don't believe everything you read.</li> <li>Be wary of open forums where anyone can post an answer.</li> <li>Do a more focused search if you find something that sounds promising.</li> <li>Look for trusted sources -- the <a href="">Mayo Clinic</a> and <a href="">WebMD</a> are both good sites.</li> <li>Use Google's <a href="">Scholar search</a> for journal articles.</li> </ol> <p> <em>What has been your experience using the internet to diagnose medical issues?&nbsp; What other tips would you offer for finding trusted medical information on the internet?</em></p> <p>(And If you like Dilbert, check out <a href="">this strip</a> about using Google for health diagnoses.&nbsp; It's one of my favorites.)</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Funny Taste Mystery: Using Google for Medical Diagnoses" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Elizabeth Lang</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty Health health care Internet Tue, 23 Jun 2009 19:00:24 +0000 Elizabeth Lang 3307 at 5 Places to Check out Medical Care for the Uninsured <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-places-to-check-out-medical-care-for-the-uninsured" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="stethoscope" title="stethoscope" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="125" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p> <meta http-equiv="CONTENT-TYPE" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /><br /> <title></title><br /> <meta name="GENERATOR" content=" 3.0 (Win32)" /></p> <style type="text/css"> <!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } --><!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } --> </style></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">With job loss on the rise and many people who can not afford medical insurance on their own, yet don't qualify for state or federal assistance, there are many who will skip medical treatment to save money. Your health is certainly not something you can take likely.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;"><em><strong>Here are 5 places you can check out when you need medical help but don't have the insurance to cover it:</strong></em></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;"><strong>Your Family Doctor</strong></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">Many individuals do not realize it but you can still see your family physician without insurance and be able to afford it. It may take some gumption but approach your doctor about a reduction in rates for services because you are willing to pay cash. Many doctors are happy to work with you because they will likely get more money and get it in a faster time period than when having to deal with insurance or Medicare.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;"><strong>Health Care Centers </strong></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">These are not the &ldquo;free clinics&rdquo; you might have in your community but there are health care centers regulated and sponsored by the federal government. These centers provide primary, preventative and dental services to people of all ages, based on a sliding payment scale. This means you pay for services based on how much income you make. Check out <a href=""></a> to find a center in your area.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;"><strong>Planned Parenthood</strong></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">Because Planned Parenthood centers often receive state funding and public donations, the fees for services may be even lower than normal, but you will typically you'll be charged what you can afford, based on your income. Women can receive family planning services, plus other treatment and testing for STD's, pap tests, breast exams, and birth control for little or no cost. Be sure to call first to discuss your finances if you do not have insurance. You'll be able to get a ball park figure for how much it will cost prior to going to your appointment. <strong>**&nbsp;UPDATE: An astute reader pointed out that PP is not only for women and men are welcome to be sure their reproductive and overall health is on track.**</strong></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;"><strong>Convenience Clinics</strong></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">These are the walk-in health centers located in major retail shopping chains such as pharmacies and Walmart. Typically, these clinics are staffed by RN practitioners and physician's assistants who can treat and prescribe medications for general colds, flu, and infections. They can also help treat and do preventative check-ups for conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The costs will vary from clinic to clinic and depends on your illness or treatment plan. Some places will offer &ldquo;a la carte&rdquo; services and some will charge a &ldquo;flat-rate fee&rdquo; for services rendered.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;"><strong>Free Screenings</strong></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">Many community groups, civic organizations, and local hospitals will offer regular free clinics for specific screenings of disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, and other conditions. Check in your local news paper or group newsletter to see what is coming up in you area and take advantage of the free (or at least discounted) health services. Early detection of many diseases can certainly save your life.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Places to Check out Medical Care for the Uninsured" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tisha Tolar</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance health care job loss medical care prescriptions uninsured Tue, 28 Apr 2009 01:45:11 +0000 Tisha Tolar 3091 at Walgreens Clinics Provide Free Health Care for the (Very) Recently Unemployed <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/walgreens-clinics-provide-free-health-care-for-the-very-recently-unemployed" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="79" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">If you&rsquo;ve found yourself avoiding the doctor because you&rsquo;re recently laid off and not sure what to do, we&rsquo;ve got news for you!<span style="">&nbsp; </span><a href="">Walgreens Take Care clinics</a> are opening their doors &ldquo;free of charge&rdquo; to those affected by a job loss.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Read on for the details on this newsworthy development.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Even if you aren&rsquo;t needing medical care as you read this, chances are good that you will in the near future.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Even something as minor as a simple antibiotic prescription can mess with your budget &ndash; especially if a recent job loss has left you uninsured.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>The Take Care clinics in many Walgreens stores look to their &ldquo;Take Care Recovery Plan&rdquo; as a way to assist.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Here are the details of the program:<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <ul> <li>The program is designed to assist patients of the 341 Take Care Clinics located in Walgreens pharmacies across the country.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>If you&rsquo;ve lost your job since March 31<sup>st</sup>, 2009 and don&rsquo;t have insurance, you can become eligible for free walk-in visits (valued at approximately $59 or more).<span style="">&nbsp; </span>The coverage doesn&rsquo;t pay for prescriptions (although generics of many drugs are usually very affordable.)<o:p></o:p></li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>The clinic doesn&rsquo;t require you to make appointments, but the hours for free services are limited (Mon-Fri from 11a.m. until 3p.m.) and will not cover check-ups, vaccinations, or other injections.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>To see a list of commonly treated illnesses that Take Care treats, <a href="">see the Take Care website</a>.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>You must provide verification of your job loss, either in the form of unemployment papers or another documented method.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Spouses, same-sex domestic partners, and children can also receive complimentary treatment under the program, if the family member that lost their job was already a patient of the Take Care clinic prior to job loss.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>(Children that were already seen by the clinic prior to the job loss will qualify their family if a parent loses their job, as well.)<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>You can pre-qualify for free treatment by visiting the clinic and filling out papers in advance.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>You also have 21 days from treatment to provide verification of your eligibility if you need to be seen and don&rsquo;t have your verification available at the time of treatment.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></li> </ul> <p class="MsoNormal">Those interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to visit the Walgreens Take Care Clinic website (<a href=""></a>).<span style="">&nbsp; </span><a href="">Their FAQ</a> should provide you with all the info you need to get started.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Walgreens Clinics Provide Free Health Care for the (Very) Recently Unemployed" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Linsey Knerl</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty clinics free health care Walgreens Fri, 10 Apr 2009 19:16:02 +0000 Linsey Knerl 3035 at Protecting Yourself from Medical Billing Mistakes <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/protecting-yourself-from-medical-billing-mistakes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="credit care bill" title="credit card bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Even though many of us may take our health for granted, one thing that strikes a chord in everyone is the high price of medical care. Between the rising cost of routine doctor visits and medication to the regular increases in our insurance premiums, health care is on most people&rsquo;s minds.</p> <p>And yet, how many of us really take the time to understand all that we&rsquo;re being charged for? Granted, medical bills can read as if they were written in another language, and for all intents and purposes, they are. That is because medicine, not unlike law, is filled with the esoteric language of the profession. Sprinkle in a generous amount of Latin, and it can leave you feeling pretty helpless and lost. </p> <p>Furthermore, many of us don&rsquo;t go to see a doctor or a lawyer until we need one, and at that point we are not necessarily in the best position to argue every nickel and dime. On the other hand, is complete ignorance the answer? Or is it better to take the time to understand all that we are being charged for, even if it&rsquo;s a hassle and may intimidate us?</p> <p>Well, it&rsquo;s worth it when you consider this: as seen recently on <a href=";page=1">Good Morning America</a>, it turns out that up to 80% of medical bills contain errors in them, according to <a href="">Medical Billing Advocates of America</a>. These errors arise from a variety of sources, from simple clerical errors like typos or duplicate charges, to more serious incidences that include charging patients for drugs or services that were never rendered and inflating the price of drugs or supplies. And, of course, there is always the possibility of outright fraud.</p> <p>Whatever the reason, the end result is the same - it ends up costing you more. Medical debt, after all, is the second leading cause of bankruptcy in this country, second only to credit card debt. And to make matters worse, these mistakes might even result in your insurance carrier refusing to cover services that you might need.</p> <p>It is therefore important to take the time to really understand what you&rsquo;re paying for, even if the people who are supposed to answer your questions (that would include doctors, nurses and hospital administrators) are not going out of their way to help you.</p> <p>So in an effort to protect your rights as a patient and possibly even save some money, keep these things in mind the next time you get your bill:</p> <p><strong>1. Read your bill.</strong> Pay attention to every charge, making sure that things are in order. If something seems wrong, like a redundant charge or something you don&rsquo;t recognize, ask questions. And don&rsquo;t worry if they don&rsquo;t seem thrilled to decipher every acronym for you. It&rsquo;s your money, not theirs, so take the time to account for every charge, and if they can&rsquo;t help you, ask for someone who can.</p> <p><strong>2. Know your options</strong>. Question high charges for everyday things that cost a lot less outside the hospital, like tissue or bandages, and find out if you have lower cost options. This is especially true for prescription medication, where generic equivalents that do the same job can cost a lot less.</p> <p><strong>3. Keep track of time</strong>. For a hospital stay, keep careful track of the duration that you are there and understand how they charge for your stay. The cost of an additional day could amount to hundreds of dollars in extra expense.</p> <p><strong>4. Be organized</strong>. Keep careful records of your conditions, including when they were first diagnosed or treated. Insurance companies can be picky about things like pre-existing conditions that could lead to a denial of coverage.</p> <p><strong>5. Be persistent, and don&rsquo;t give in too easily</strong>. This is important when dealing with your doctor&rsquo;s office as well as your insurance company. If you&rsquo;re not satisfied with a response, keep trying until you get an answer. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and the people who are helping you are not as invested in your interests (it&rsquo;s your money) and more than likely won&rsquo;t be as enthusiastic to resolve the issue, so it&rsquo;s up to you.</p> <p><strong>6. Talk to people</strong>. This includes friends, relatives, and colleagues. Chances are they&rsquo;ve traveled through the medical maze themselves or know someone who has and can offer some advice.</p> <p><strong>7. Seek out help</strong>. If it seems as if your efforts are going nowhere, there are professional services that can help. Outside of getting an attorney, several advocacy groups have formed designed specifically to help people sort out their medical bills, and a simple Google search for &ldquo;medical billing errors&rdquo; will turn them up. They generally charge a fee, but it can be worth it if they end up saving you thousands of dollars, and many of them work on a contingency basis.</p> <p>It you think you might be the victim of fraud, contact your insurance company or the <a href="">FBI</a>. For more information, the website of the <a href="">National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association</a> can provide information and advice.</p> <p>Whatever you do, be informed, because your money and your health might be at stake. Always keep in mind, however, that hospitals are not necessarily out to rip you off and many of these situations arise from simple and innocent human errors that can easily be resolved if you just take the time.</p> <p>And time, as the saying goes, is money. Speaking of which, maybe the next step will be to find out what all those legal fees that lawyers charge are actually for.</p> <p>Then again, you&rsquo;d probably have to hire an attorney to do that. </p> <p>Do you have a medical billing experience that you'd like to share with us? If so, we'd love to hear it, and thanks.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Protecting Yourself from Medical Billing Mistakes" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Fred Lee</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs bankruptcy health care Fri, 10 Apr 2009 10:18:33 +0000 Fred Lee 3033 at