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Got Insurance But Can't Afford the Coverage? Here Are Four Options to Consider

So you've got insurance, but you still can't afford your medical care. What's a person to do? Here are four options you might want to consider...
07/07/2015 01:05pm ET | Updated July 7, 2016
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So you've got insurance, but you still can't afford your medical care. What's a person to do? Here are four options you might want to consider...

1. Check online for drug coupons

Some major pharmaceutical companies are now offering coupons to retain customers when their key brands start getting competition from generics.

The drug makers typically post links announcing the coupons on their websites. Once you sign up, you get a downloadable coupon that offers a greatly reduced co-payment at your favorite pharmacy.

This is not for every brand name, just for those that face generic competition. Lipitor, Plavix and Diovan are among the popular big-name drugs offering coupons at their sites as I write this. Note that these coupons won't work if you get your health care from the government or if you participate in a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) program at work.

2. Pay cash for non-emergency medical needs

If you're looking to save money on medical bills, you might consider being a cash payer and shopping around for the lowest price on non-emergency medical procedures, completely circumventing your insurer in the process.

The key is to make a deal upfront with the billing department, rather than after services have been rendered. I read an article in The Los Angeles Times that gave some concrete examples of how much money doing it like this can save you.

In one case, a blood test that would have cost an insured patient $415 could be paid for in cash -- after negotiating -- for $95. In another case, one major insurer was charging a negotiated rate of $2,400 for a CAT scan at a Los Angeles-area hospital. But that was reduced down to $250 when the reporter called to inquire about a cash price at the hospital.

Every fee is negotiable. It can't hurt to ask. Of course, the key is to do it before you receive medical services, not after.

3. Look for charitable alternatives

What do you do if you have an illness that requires special medicine and you can't afford it despite having insurance? One pharmaceutical executive turned philanthropist has set up a charity called TheAssistanceFund.org to provide co-pay assistance that can make the difference between life and death for some patients. This non-profit helps pay for some medications by footing a significant amount of the out-of-pocket for insured patients. Best of all, TheAssistanceFund.org tries to approve people for assistance within 24 hours because they know time is of the essence.

4. Shop the lowest prescription prices from your smartphone

With an app like Lowest Med, you just pop in the name of the medication you need and it will shop the marketplace for you to tell you who's got the best price in your area. Visit LowestMed.com for more details.

The thing is, a pharmaceutical company may have a deal with a particular pharmacy based on volume that could make your prescription a lot cheaper at one place versus the pharmacy where you normally go. This app gives you the opportunity to see the best deal on your medication.

For more money-saving tips, visit ClarkHoward.com. Money in Your Pocket. Advice You Can Trust.