How To Get Healthy Without Going Broke

by Jacques Sprenger on March 30, 2010

Some ways to stay healthy on a budget.

I had a back operation last year with one of the top orthopedists in the country and my insurance did not pay a dime for it. But the surgery, anesthetist, nurses and hospital stay for 3 days cost me a total of $2,000. Of course, the country was Mexico and the city was Monterrey, which is known for its first-class medical care. Had I used my insurance and had I gotten the operation in the United States, my final co-pay would have been closer to $5,000.

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How To Get Healthy Without Going Broke

That said, here are some suggestions for getting healthy without having to go broke in the process:

1. Go abroad for health care.
If you are planning an elective surgery, it would be a good idea to consider going to Mexico, especially Monterrey, which is about 150 miles south of Laredo and McAllen, Tx. They have the latest technology without the insane prices found in the United States (and they speak English). Pick a surgeon with a stellar record and a long experience. When I had my prostatectomy, my surgeon had done 200 kidney transplants, so I knew that my surgery was a piece of cake for him. Total cost in a clinic: $500 plus medication, which is much cheaper in the land of the Aztecs.


2. Cross the border for a better exchange rate.
Hundreds of Winter Texans in the Rio Grande Valley enjoy the services of medical doctors and dentists on the other side of the border, even though they have full access to Medicare. Now that the peso has fallen 40% in relation to the dollar, it’s a good time to take care of those expensive root canal operations. Cost in the States with crown work: up to $3,500 without insurance, and$1,200 with insurance. Cost in Mexico: between $300 and $600 dollars depending on where you go, so shop around.

3. Go for generic items. Ask for free samples.
Health.com recommends that you talk to your doctor about the cost of drugs during your doctor’s visit. “Are there any generics or similar medicines or ones in the same class that are less expensive and which I can try first?” is a key question that you should never hesitate to ask your doctor. Here’s more on how you can save money with generic drugs.

Ask them also whether they have some samples: my wife was able to last 2 months on samples given her for her cholesterol. That’s what those samples are for, so don’t be ashamed to ask; it’s a good idea to make friends with the nurse or the doctor’s aide. They are invaluable when it comes to getting free samples.

4. Make lifestyle changes.
Another extremely important suggestion from Health.com: “For many chronic medical problems, treatment should start with lifestyle changes,” says Edward Jardini, MD. When I discovered I was borderline diabetic, I asked my doctor what I could do, visualizing a ton of pills and insulin. He wisely answered: “Lose 20 pounds and you won’t need any pills.” Don’t take medication if you have the option of changing your lifestyle. It’s a lot cheaper and you will end up much healthier.

5. Try negotiating (or haggling).
Finally, do not hesitate to bargain or negotiate with hospitals and doctors. They’d rather get your money immediately than allow a protracted payment plan. I have used the $20 a month gambit successfully to obtain sizeable discounts, even on MRIs. You may have to reveal some of your financial problems to gain some sympathy and results, but, hey, a penny saved is a penny earned according to Ben Franklin. And he knew what he was talking about.

Here are a few more articles on the subject:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Smarter Spend April 1, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Generic drugs are the best way to save on money when it comes to osteopathic care. But the best way to take money is to take care of yourself, walk 30 minutes a day minimum and don’t eat out. Fight the causes not the symptoms.

2 Austin April 12, 2010 at 4:16 am

I’ve heard of people getting major dental work done in Mexico. Everything worked out well, but it’s still hard to make that decision when it’s your body that has to travel down there and sit in that chair.

Creative topic choice, nicely done.

Austin @ Foreigner’s Finances

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