The word coming out of Washington these days is that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is imminent. Let’s face it: Obamacare has been sitting under a guillotine almost since day one and the President-Elect is now urging Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare as quickly as possible. If we’re going to get rid of Obamacare, it would obviously be best to replace it as quickly as possible, or even simultaneously, because otherwise millions of Americans could be left without health insurance. Is that realistic, though, to believe that Obamacare can be replaced within a matter of weeks? It can take years to draft new legislation and from my very basic understanding of the ACA, it is behemoth legislation that works like a puzzle, with every aspect needing to fit together just so.
Typically, this site is dedicated pretty exclusively to shopping, but maybe because I’m getting older and actually have to think about things like healthcare, I haven’t been able to help but think about how difficult it could be for some people will receive affordable access to healthcare if Obamacare is repealed. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, don’t claim to know much of anything about the Affordable Care Act, and this certainly isn’t meant to be a political post. However, if you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for healthcare if Obamacare is repealed, here are a few affordable options I’ve found that MAY help you cover the basics.
How to Save on Healthcare if Obamacare is Repealed
How to Save Money on Prescription Drugs
I know it depends on the types of drugs that are needed, but there are quite a few different ways one can save money on prescription drugs.
Fill prescriptions at Walmart
I asked a friend of mine, a former social worker at a hospital in Washington DC, if she had any tips for how to save on health care and she said that one of the recommendations they always gave to their clients was to check out the pricing at Walmart. It turns out that Walmart offers $4 prescription refills. Here’s a link to their list of $4 prescriptions ($4 typically covers 30 days, while $10 can get you a 90-day fill.) Another great aspect of this cheap prescription drug option is that Walmart offers free home delivery.
If you need to save money on prescription drugs without insurance coverage and don’t mind doing a little bit of shopping online, Blink Health may be a great option for you! Blink Health actually cuts out the insurance component altogether and works directly with the drug manufacturers and pharmacies to offer discounts to customers.
The process for receiving a discount on any of the 15,000 prescription drugs covered by Blink Health is as follows:
- Search online for the prescription drug you need
- Pay for your prescription online and receive a “Blink Card” that you will need to print out and present at your local pharmacy
- Go to your local pharmacy with your “Blink Card” and prescription. Tell the pharmacist to make sure that Blink Health is listed as the primary payor.
- Pay nothing at the pharmacy!
Blink Health is accepted at some of the most popular pharmacies in the country, such as Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid, CVS and many independents. Over 50 percent of medications cost less than $10 on Blink Health.
What I like about Blink Health is that you can also use it to check prescription drug prices even if you are using insurance or Medicare. You might find that your price is lower using Blink than it is going through traditional insurance.
Prescription Drug Discount Cards
Much like Blink Health, there are a few different prescription drug discount cards available that will help you save money on prescription drugs.
Just a few of the prescription drug discount cards on the market include:
- Easy Drug Card – It’s free to download a card (or you can download the app for iPhone or Android) and will help you save up to 75 percent on generic and name brand prescription drug costs. You can use their website to get an idea of what you’d pay for any one prescription in your area.
- RXassist – This is a printable card that you may be able to use to save on prescription drugs whether or not you have insurance. If you DO have insurance and are getting a generic prescription filled that costs more than $10, you can present an RXassist card to see if it will help bring down the price. If you do not have insurance, you can use the card to save up to 85 percent on all generic or brand name prescriptions. You can search their website to get an idea of pricing near you.
- NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card – With this card, you may be able to save up to 80 percent on prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and pet prescriptions. NeedyMeds is a non-profit that supplies tons of free information on how to receive affordable and/or free medical services.
When it comes to comparing prescription prices, the GoodRX database is awesome! I used it to look up the cost of the Wellbutrin I took to help with postpartum depression and was shocked to see how the cost changed so much from pharmacy to pharmacy! (You can find out the price of brand name or generic drugs, too!) Not only will their database tell you where you can find your prescription drugs for less, but they also let you know when coupons are available that will help you save even more. You can then print out the GoodRX discount savings card or use the GoodRX app.
GoodRX can be used whether you’re insured or uninsured. It can also be used to save money on pet prescriptions.
Tips for How to Save Money on Doctor’s Visits
It’s one thing to save money on prescription drugs because as you can see from the list above, there are quite a few ways to save. (And I honestly wish I had known about all of them when I had my first couple of jobs out of college and the world’s worst insurance!) Saving on doctor’s visits if Obamacare is repealed, however, may prove to be a bit more difficult. Below are a few different options you may want to consider.
Open a Flexible Spending Account
Depending on your work situation, your employer may offer you the opportunity to put money into a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). An FSA will let you set aside pre-tax money to be used specifically for healthcare purposes over the course of the year. Currently, FSA’s have a limit of $2,550 per account per year. There’s no requirement that you need to be insured to have an FSA, however, one can only be offered by an employer. Theoretically, you could turn down insurance coverage and just use the money accrued in your FSA to pay medical bills and prescription costs utilizing many of the other options mentioned in this post.
Obviously, this may not be the best option if you’re worried about how to pay for healthcare if Obamacare is repealed and money is tight. BUT, it is worth noting that many doctor’s offices will offer a discount if you are able to pay in cash. Even if you do have insurance, it might be worth getting the cash rate as The Wall Street Journal reports it can sometimes be less than the copay rate with insurance.
Pay up front
Like with cash payments, some doctor’s will offer a discount if you pay upfront for whatever service you are having done. For instance, when I had my gallbladder removed, they offered a 10 percent discount if I paid prior to the procedure, which I was happy to take! It costs offices money to bill clients (and then follow-up, if necessary), so sometimes they’re happy to offer a discount in exchange for early payment.
Visit a free or low-cost clinic
NeedyMeds has a database of 14,000+ low-cost or free health care clinics in the United States. The database will tell you what clinics are located nearby, what services each clinic provides, and who they accept (for instance, some only work with those who are uninsured). Many of the clinics on the list offer a sliding payment scale that’s based on income, while others note that there’s no fee for any service. The services offered vary by clinic, but range from primary care to women’s health to addiction services to mental health services to STD testing and treatment.
In addition to the free and low-cost clinics listed by NeedyMeds, be sure to see if one of your local drugstores has a clinic. For instance, the CVS MinuteClinic is a great resource for those with minor illnesses or injuries or those who are in need of vaccinations. CVS is upfront and lists all of their services and prices online so there shouldn’t be any surprises.
Generally speaking, concierge healthcare (or boutique healthcare) refers to doctors who offer their services on an as-needed basis and without offering any insurance plans. Here’s how concierge healthcare works, according to VeryWell:
(Doctors) charge patients on an annual or monthly basis, for 24/7 access and full coordination of care. They engage with fewer patients than a reimbursement model would require, and those patients pay them in cash for that access.
According to Healthline, the benefit to doctors who offer concierge healthcare services is that they can have a set number of patients and a predictable income. The benefit for patients is that they get full access to their doctor whenever care is needed and the cost is frequently lower than the monthly insurance premiums one might pay.
Concierge healthcare can really only be practiced in specific and non-life-threatening situations, and many – if not most – specialists are not available on a boutique basis.
HealthTap Prime is an online-only concierge medical service and while you can’t get medical care from their virtual doctors, you can schedule a virtual consultation to address your concerns, get questions answered, prescriptions (no DEA I-IV, lifestyle, psychiatric, or state-regulated medications), referrals, lab orders, or go over test results. You can talk with a doctor via video, voice, or text at all hours of the day and night. Via the HealthTap app you can also view and interact with doctor-created checklists that will help you work toward your health goals. There is a free version of the app, but it’s through HealthTap Prime that you are able to schedule virtual consults with doctors.
Healthtap Prime costs $99 per month plus $10 for each family member.
How to save on dental and vision care
While dental and vision are not currently required under the Affordable Care Act, and this section really won’t help you save on healthcare if Obamacare is repealed, I still wanted to touch on a couple of ways to save on these items because they can also be pricey (oftentimes even if you have insurance)!
Free and low-cost dental clinics
NeedyMeds.com has a database of 3,000+ free and low-cost dental clinics that can help you save substantial amounts of money on your dental bills. The one thing to keep in mind when it comes to free and low-cost dental clinics is that the waiting time can be quite long and it can be hard to get in immediately even with a dental emergency.
Once upon a time I had terrible dental insurance, which was basically like having no insurance. I needed quite a bit of dental work done, though, and the way I made my measly insurance and paycheck stretch as far as possible was to obtain dental services through a local dental school. Working with students can keep the prices down substantially, although as with any free and reduced cost clinic, it can take quite awhile to get scheduled for an appointment.
Daily deal sites
It may seem silly, but daily deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Gilt City can be great options for finding low-cost dental and vision options. For example, right now here in Chicago, there are multiple vision companies offering discounts through Groupon, including $25 eye exams + credits that can be applied toward eyeglasses. I also found a $59 dental package that includes a cleaning, exam, and x-rays. It doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on sites like these if you know you’re going to need an exam of some sort.
I’m fairly certain that VSP is the eye insurance I’ve had my entire adult life, and typically my premium has been like $1 per month after my employer picked up the rest. I was surprised to find that even without an employer footing most of the monthly bill, VSP is still quite affordable and might be a good option if your family makes frequent trips to the eye doctor. Enrollment is open year-round with plans starting at $17 per month. Plans cover everything from eye exams to lenses, frames, contacts and more.
Purchase glasses online
I’ve told this story a few times now, but the first time I had an eye exam as an adult that resulted in me needing glasses also resulted in me having a really hefty bill because even with insurance glasses can be expensive. Ever since then I’ve purchased all of my glasses online where, even without using vision insurance, the prices are incredibly affordable. A few of my favorite places to buy trendy glasses online include:
- Warby Parker – Most pairs cost $99, including prescription lenses, and they offer a free five-pair at-home try-on program to make sure you’re selecting a good pair for your face.
- Firmoo – Price-wise, it doesn’t get much better than Firmoo where you can sometimes get your first pair of prescription eyeglasses for free! Even if that promotion isn’t available, though, you can usually get stylish frames with prescription lenses for less than $39 total. Check out my Firmoo review for more on this company.
- $39 Dollar Glasses – Speaking of $39 glasses, that’s what you’ll pay for frames and prescription lenses at this site.
While I don’t believe any of these companies accept insurance (though I could be wrong), you should be able to pay using money from a Flexible Spending Account.
Only time will tell what will ultimately happen to the Affordable Care Act. Hopefully, you will find these tips helpful if you are looking for ways to save on healthcare if Obamacare is repealed, or if you just need to lower your healthcare costs.
Do tell: What other tips do you have that may help others save on healthcare if Obamacare is repealed?