New Tool, Approach for Consumers to Find Lower-priced Healthcare

There are a lot of people concerned about their healthcare costs in the U.S.  I’m certainly one of them.  My family gets hit unexpectedly like any other, and we have our own recurring medical bills to deal with.  Since I realized a few years ago that I could save upwards of one to two thousand dollars a year in medical expenses, I’ve made a habit of reviewing my medical bills much more closely.  This can take hours upon hours on the phone and researching of medical codes and jargon—far from a simple process.

But what can you end up saving by comparing costs?   Multiple case studies have shown that the difference between the low and high price is often a factor of 5 to 15 times.   For San Francisco (the first metro area we have significant data for) you can pay as little as $149 or up to $833 (cash rate) for an ultrasound during pregnancy.  For those who don’t ask, or for whatever reason don’t get the uninsured or cash discount, the amount could go as high as $1,733.  Several imaging and lab work procedures have a much greater disparity.

The problem is finding prices to compare. In California, hospitals are

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Double Check, Don’t Double Up on Medicines Containing Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is the most common drug ingredient in the U.S. and is found in more than 600 different prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines, including pain relievers, fever reducers, and sleep aids as well as cough, cold, and allergy medicines. It is safe and effective when used as directed, but taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.

Research recently conducted by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health (the Alliance) found that more than half of Hispanic consumers are not aware of any health risks associated with taking too much acetaminophen, and do not check their medicine labels to see if their medicine contains acetaminophen.

That’s why NeedyMeds is partnering with the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition’s Know Your Dose Campaign to get the word out.

Here are four important steps to follow when taking any over-the-counter or prescription medicines:

1)     Always read and follow the labels on your medicines;

2)     Know if your medicine contains acetaminophen;

3)     Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time; and

4)     Always ask your healthcare

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Volunteers in Medicine: Caring for the Uninsured

Access to Health Care

Today, many working individuals in America do not have health insurance and as a result do not have access to quality health care services.  Their employers may not provide coverage, or they may earn too little to buy affordable health insurance or earn too much to receive other types of public assistance.  These are the “working uninsured” who, in many communities, turn to Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) clinics and other safety-net clinics for access to health care services.

Services provided in VIM Clinics

VIM clinics provide health care services free of charge.  Retired and practicing medical professionals volunteer their time and expertise to give back to their neighbors, treating diseases like hypertension, diabetes, mental health issues, and obesity.  Specialized services offered in many VIM clinics range from pediatrics and dentistry to ophthalmology and counseling. VIM clinics are supported by the local community and the services offered are based on the needs and resources in each community.

VIM Clinics and a Culture of Caring

VIM clinics promote a “Culture of Caring” wherein each patient

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Drug Discount Cards – Lifting the Veil of Secrecy

by Richard J. Sagall, MD, President of NeedyMeds

Everywhere you look you see claims of savings from drug discount cards. You may be skeptical when cards promise huge savings. And you should be because not all the claims are real.

Too Good to Be True

The old saying “If it seems too good to be true then it probably is” applies to drug discount cards. Drug discount cards have the potential of saving you a lot of money, but you have to understand how they work.

It’s important to remember that they all work basically the same way. Here’s the scoop.

First, a company called a “pharmacy benefits manager” (PBM) or an adjudicator sets up a network of participating pharmacies that agree to accept the cards. Then the PBM negotiates with each pharmacy chain and all the participating local pharmacies offer a discount on the drugs they dispense. The discount is usually a percentage of the cash price of the drug. The percentage may vary from drug to drug.

Next, the PBM finds companies or organizations to market their card. These groups, called marketers, may be for-profit companies or non-profit organizations.

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Price Shopping Pharmacies To Save On Meds

Sumanah was a 26 year old event planner in New York City when suddenly diagnosed with congestive heart failure.  Sumanah was like many typical 26 year olds, without health insurance and no savings capable of paying for her medical bills. Taking 10 medications for her condition, Sumanah was paying full price at what she “thought” was the cheapest pharmacy. After she discovered that not only were some pharmacies cheaper for the same exact medication, she learned that some pharmacies can be upwards of 16 times more expensive than another pharmacy right across the street. Using this information, Sumanah was able to price shop for the right pharmacy and save a lot on her prescription costs. This story, although not uncommon, shows how important shopping around for medications can be.

In their May issue, Consumer Reports published an article confirming the experience Sumanah and many others have each time they go to fill a prescription. The study focuses on five of the most prescribed medications in the U.S. and reviews more

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About Us

Welcome to the NeedyMeds Voice! We look forward to presenting you with timely, provocative pieces on healthcare reform, patient advocacy, medication and healthcare access, and other health-related news. Our goals are to educate, enlighten, and elucidate; together, we will try to make sense of the myriad and ongoing healthcare-related changes in the U.S. today.