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Health dollars & sense: free drug samples, negotiate healthcare costs

Want to cut medical expenses without compromising your health? Try the following money-saving tips to help keep your medical costs in check.

Ask your doctor for free drug samples

Going without a drug you need because your budget is tight or you have no health insurance can cause health problems to develop into something more serious—and result in bigger medical bills—in the long run. Rather than skip the medication and risk having your health deteriorate, ask your doctor if he or she has free samples (given to doctors by drug company sales representatives) of the drug you need. While free samples aren’t a long-term solution if you need medication for a chronic condition, they can leave you with a few more dollars in your pocket. Another bonus—free samples let you try a drug, so you won’t waste money on medication that may be ineffective or will cause unpleasant side effects. If you do use free samples of a brand name drug, ask your doctor whether a suitable generic drug is available for long-term use and alert your druggist so he or she can watch for drug interactions.

Negotiate your healthcare costs

Surveys show that roughly one in 10 Americans negotiates prices with their doctors. Physicians sometimes have wiggle room and will lower their fees if you ask. If you’ve gone out of network (and, therefore, have to pay more) to visit a doctor, he or she may be particularly sympathetic. So what do you have to lose? Dentists and independent pharmacies (but not supermarket pharmacies or chain drugstores) may also be able to offer a price break if you ask.