First For Women - - Feel-Good File -

Save thou­sands on health care

Lab tests, medicine, doc­tor vis­its…stay­ing healthy doesn’t have to cost a for­tune. FIRST asked the pros for tricks to slash your bills

Pick your price on­line

Even with in­sur­ance, med­i­cal pro­ce­dures can cost a pretty penny. “I needed an MRI, which would have cost me $1,200 since my de­ductible was so high,” says Char­lie Martz, 33, of Athens, Ge­or­gia. When her doc­tor sug­gested she check out MDSave.com, which works like a travel site, show­ing the costs of pro­ce­dures at var­i­ous fa­cil­i­ties, she in­put the type of MRI she needed and got 10 op­tions. “I found my MRI for just $200! I put it in my cart and used my credit card to pay.”

Ask a pro to spot mis­takes

A whop­ping 9 out of 10 med­i­cal bills con­tain er­rors, so it pays to read yours line by line. But who has the time? When Chris­tine Bergmann, 66, was frus­trated by er­ro­neous bills, she dis­cov­ered Medlim­i­nal.com, where you up­load a bill for med­i­cal pros to look over for free. If they find an er­ror, they work to get you a re­fund and take 25 per­cent of the sav­ings. The process is pretty pain­less, says Bergmann. “Two weeks after I for­warded the doc­u­men­ta­tion, I re­ceived a fol­low-up email. They dealt with the hos­pi­tal and in­sur­ance com­pany to get me a re­fund!”

Save 50% with a vir­tual visit

More peo­ple than ever are tak­ing ad­van­tage of telemedicine, in which pa­tients con­sult with doc­tors via video calls. Why? Vir­tual house calls cost about 50 per­cent less than vis­it­ing a doc­tor and 95 per­cent less than a trip to the ER—and they’re start­ing to be cov­ered by in­sur­ers like Unit­edHealth­care. Com­pa­nies like Doc­torOnDe­mand.com (free) and Hel­loAlvin.com ($100 per year for a fam­ily mem­ber­ship) put pa­tients in con­tact with physi­cians for 10- to 15-minute “visit” for $45. Alexis Lig­nos, 27 of New York took ad­van­tage of the ser­vice when she fell in the air­port and de­vel­oped a large bruise. “I had signed up with Hel­loAlvin, so all I had to do was pick up the phone. Within min­utes, I was talk­ing to a physi­cian, who as­sured me that the swelling would re­solve on its own. I was able to keep my sched­ule, run­ning from ho­tel to con­fer­ence to meet­ings,” she says. “Best of all, you don’t risk be­ing ex­posed to con­ta­gious pa­tients in an ER.” A lit­tle-known se­cret to sav­ing big? Ne­go­ti­at­ing. It worked for Megan R. Williams Kh­melev, M.D., of Dal­las when her son was rushed to the ER. “We were there for about four hours, and while I knew it would be ex­pen­sive, I was blind­sided by the $4,000 bill!” A weight-loss ad­vi­sor for Ele­men­talWeightLoss.com, Kh­melev had seen first­hand how hospi­tals ne­go­ti­ate bill re­duc­tions for pa­tients, so she called and asked for a dis­count if she paid in full. “Hospi­tals re­al­ize there is a large a per­cent­age of peo­ple who will never pay their ER bill, so they’re open to ne­go­ti­a­tion,” she says. “In our case, one call slashed more than $1,000 off the bill.”

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