Deal Finder: Save $$$ on Medical Care during Cold, Flu Season

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By LaTina Emerson, The Shopper Deal Finder

Winter has ushered in cold and flu season, and when people want to feel better, the last thing they’re usually thinking about is cost. However, consumers should keep in mind that where they choose to get help will determine the price tag of their medical bills.

It’s important to consider healthcare options in advance to avoid expensive bills later. For health conditions that are not life-threatening, it’s cheaper to seek medical care at an urgent care facility (such as Summit Urgent Care or Peachtree Immediate Care) or walk-in clinics (such as Piedmont QuickCare at Walgreens, The MinuteClinic at CVS, and The Little Clinic at Kroger) compared to the hospital emergency room. These alternatives can save time and money and also make it easier to receive care, according to Consumer Reports.

It costs 10 times more to treat an illness in the emergency room than an urgent care facility for patients with the same diagnosis, a 2017 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine reports. In the ER, the average price per visit is about $2,200, while the average cost of medical treatment in an urgent care center is $168. As a result, some health insurance companies are discouraging people from visiting the ER and even have the right to deny coverage for ER visits that don’t meet their definitions of a true emergency.

In addition, health insurance companies often have steep co-pays for ER care and high-deductible plans that require consumers to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before their insurance kicks in. Even if the ER is in the insurance company’s network, about two-thirds of ER doctors are not directly employed by the hospitals where they work and can bill separately. If the physician ends up being out of the patient’s network, the consumer could get stuck with a much higher bill than expected, according to Consumer Reports.

Because primary care doctor’s offices often can’t accommodate same-day visits, urgent care facilities and walk-in clinics are great choices for health conditions that are not life-threatening. These facilities accept most insurance plans and offer services for minor illnesses and injuries, screenings, monitoring, skin conditions, vaccinations and injections, physicals and more. Urgent care centers can also treat medical conditions that are more serious and don’t require a trip to the ER, such as lacerations, fractures, joint sprains or minor burns.

Prior to requiring medical care, consumers should identify the urgent care facilities and walk-in clinics in their area. They should contact their insurance company to verify coverage for services at these facilities and prepare for out-of-pocket costs. If lab tests are needed, they are often sent to a third-party laboratory and the patient is billed.

Still, it’s cheaper to stay well, so whenever possible, consumers should take precautions to avoid getting ill in the first place. WebMD recommends getting a flu shot and washing your hands frequently with soap and water (scrubbing the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails for 20 seconds or more) when coming in contact with people who are sick, though it’s best to avoid getting close to anyone who is ill. WebMD also suggests using alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available and sanitizing your home and work space (door knobs, light switches, telephones, desk, etc.) with disinfectant spray, disinfecting wipes or rubbing alcohol diluted with water. Also, take care of yourself year-round by getting adequate rest, eating a nutritious diet, not smoking and keeping allergies under control.

If consumers do become ill, they should seek treatment early to improve their outcome. For instance, a bad cold can turn into a sinus infection. GoodRx reports that zinc lozenges can reduce the severity and duration of common cold symptoms.

Also, find ways to save on cold and flu medicine, such as buying the generic brand and looking for printed coupons in sales inserts or digital coupons offered online by grocery and retail stores such as Kroger and Dollar General. Also, don’t underestimate your local pharmacies and their ability to keep prescription costs down like Newnan Pharmacy, Lee-King Pharmacy, Lee-Goodrum and Lee-Goodrum Eastside Pharmacies, and Lambert Pharmacy. Keep an eye out for deals and check your medicine cabinet periodically to make sure your over-the-counter drugs haven’t expired.

Here are some urgent care and walk-in facilities in Coweta County:

Piedmont QuickCare at Walgreens, 3116 Highway 34 East, Newnan 30265, 678- 732-1500 or 404-205-8816 to make an appointment
Summit Urgent Care, 1825 Highway 34, Newnan 30265, (770) 502-2121
Peachtree Immediate Care, 371 Newnan Crossing Bypass, Suite 103, Newnan 30265, 770-400-8410
MinuteClinic at CVS, 2305 Highway 34 East, Newnan30265, 678-423-1043 or 866-389-2727
The Little Clinic at Kroger, 1751 Newnan Crossing Blvd. East, Newnan 30265, 678-423-5854

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