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  • Dave Kinzer

How to Save Money at the Doctor's Office

I sprained my ankle pretty badly back in June. Every other time I sprained my ankle, it healed within a week or two.

This time, however, it took forever to heal. It’s still not back to 100%, actually. Because it was taking so long to heal, I decided to go to the doctor.

My appointment went very smoothly. I checked in, got an x-ray, consulted with the doctor, was given an ankle brace and rehab instructions, and was sent on my way after only about 30 minutes.

As it turn out, my ankle will be okay. It’s just going to take some time before it returns to normal. So everything was fine. Until I got the bill, that is.

The fee for the x-ray and the doctor consult was about what I expected. The charge for the ankle brace seemed pretty expensive to me, however.

I thought it was going to cost between thirty and forty dollars, so when I saw the charge for $82, I was very surprised.

A quick internet search revealed that Scheels had this very same ankle brace for only $29.99. My surprise turned to irritation. Why was the doctor’s office charging me almost three times the amount other local stores were charging?

(Click the link to check out the ankle brace in question. Expensive though it was, I can vouch for it- it does a great job. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Knowing that sometimes all you have to do is ask, I decided to contact the doctor’s office to see if they would adjust my bill.

That strategy failed immediately. The billing representative said she couldn’t adjust my bill even if I felt that the price they charged me was ridiculous.

She also explained that the ankle brace I could get at local stores was not the same as the one they had sold me. She was implying that this brace was stronger, or more effective, or just better somehow than the one Scheels was selling.

Before I got all worked up about it, I thought it would be wise to see if she was right. I visited Scheels and found the ankle brace in question. I examined it thoroughly and discovered that it was, in fact, the same exact ankle brace.

I believe the billing representative meant well, but she was wrong; the same ankle brace the doctor’s office sold me for $82 could indeed be found locally for $29.99.

So how can you and I use this experience to save money in the future?

First, ask questions when visiting the doctor’s office. I really dropped the ball here. The most obvious question I should have asked the doctor was, “How much is the ankle brace?”

After she told me, I could’ve quickly looked it up on my phone. Had I done that, I would’ve discovered immediately that Scheels was selling it for a significantly cheaper price.

Then, and here’s the hard part for a lot of people, I could’ve politely declined to buy it.

So many people, myself included, are so used to trusting medical professionals, that we don’t question anything they say or do. Sometimes, it’s in our best interest to ask questions.

As long as your questions are relevant, and you ask them politely, it shouldn’t be a problem. And if it irritates your doctor that you’re politely asking relevant questions? Get a new doctor.

Other great questions to ask are, “Do I really need that?”, or “How would it affect my health if I didn’t use that (piece of equipment)?”

Second, don’t forget to explore buying used. While I wouldn’t want to buy certain medical equipment secondhand due to the nature of its use, I’d be okay with some items.

A quick search of craigslist shows that you can buy crutches, manual and electric wheelchairs, nebulizers, shower chairs, walkers, and other medical equipment far below their regular price.

If you consider buying used, be sure to examine the item thoroughly to make sure it’s in good shape, and talk to you doctor first to ensure that the piece of equipment is appropriate for your needs.

You also need to take into account what your health insurance will cover as well. If it will pay for the device you need, it’s probably best to let it, even if it is expensive. Hopefully your insurer negotiates a better price so it’s not paying almost three times the cost.

So when you’re told you need certain medical equipment, ask questions until you are satisfied that you really need it, then explore your options for buying. A little research could save you lots of money.

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