Having Poor Health is Costly and Not Frugal

by David Ning · 20 comments

Sometimes, there’s no one to blame but yourself.

For whatever reason, my doctor visit a few days ago really struck a chord and got my blood boiling. I caught a cold and I went to see a doctor to make sure it’s just regular coughing and nothing more serious. The $25 co-pay seemed unnecessary but for the peace of mind, it was a good idea (especially when your wife is pregnant and insisted that you go).

When I got there, yada-yada-yada, the doctor said I’ll be fine, yada-yada-yada, and I came out with coughing medicine and a generic version of Claritin D. Only that the bill wasn’t $25, it added up to be $42. Worst of all, I didn’t even know how much it was until the medicine was already prepared and the cashier asked for a signature.

Logic vs Emotions

The logical side of my brain is telling me that I’m over-reacting (and I know I am), but the emotional side is really crying foul right now. Why did a 10 minute talk with the doctor and medicine that I could get at a pharmacy for $10 cost so much, especially when I am already insured? $40 is an I can likely forget, but I honestly can put two twenties to better use.

If You Can’t Fight the System, Work with It

At least there’s some good that will come out of this. If I want to stop paying for some doctor’s McMansion, then one of my main focus should be on having better health. Everyone knows that bad habits lead to poor health, which leads to more hospital visits. So I have a plan. Here’s what I (and everyone who cares) should do.

The Good Health Money Saving Plan

  • Exercise – Duh. But I bet you weren’t thinking about it when you were flipping the channels trying to decide if you should watch that movie for a second night in a row. Have a 30 minute brisk walk 30 minutes a day for at least five days a week.
  • Eat Less – I don’t know why, but I can never stop myself from eating the whole plate that’s in front of me. If I save half, I can even spare myself from thinking about what to eat when the next meal comes around.

I’m no nutritionist, so my plan is quite simple. Yet, if all of us just do these two simple things, we could cut our health bill tremendously.

If I didn’t get sick, I could get my $40, wait, $41.47 back.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Financial Samurai September 26, 2009 at 7:22 am

David – Sorry you’re sick. Just think of the $42 bucks as payment for all the doctor’s years of hard studying. Rather be in and out in 10 min than 1 hr. Times money.

It’s understandable we feel like we want to get our money’s worth at the doctor. How many times a week do you work out a week, and what is your current weight and height for your Body Mass Index calculation may we ask?

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MoneyNing September 26, 2009 at 10:27 am

I’m not sure what the scientific numbers are, but according to my doctor, I’m about 5 pounds over the “fit” range so it would be better if I lose 5-10 pounds in a medical point of view.

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Financial Samurai September 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Hmmm, losing 5 pounds is always the hardest. It took me 3 months to lose 5 lbs, and I had to do a major diet overhaul. I’m around 5 feet 11 and 162-164 pounds now, but I play tennis 3-4X a week, 1.5-2.5 hrs each time. I still don’t have 4 pack abs, just a lot of sore knees and shoulders.

The key thing is diet, and not exercise if you only had to do one thing. I did an experiment which I wrote about called “Losing Your Way to More Money.” Take a look if you get a chance.

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JNUrbanski September 26, 2009 at 8:23 am

I’m more amazed by the fact that you went to the doctor with a common cold.

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Imani September 26, 2009 at 8:34 am

Let the $42 go….if you weren’t expecting your first child, you probably would not have gone. But I remember with a huge smile what it was like to be a first time expectant parent. The peace of mind is well worth the money. Be happy.

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MoneyNing September 26, 2009 at 10:28 am

I’m happy :) I just had to get that out of the system. Thanks for listening (reading).

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Shakela87 September 26, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I would also talk to your doctor about those concerns next time. If they’re reasonable they’ll help you out with providing generic refills, or if they really trust you (I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve been seeing them forever) might give you a prescription for double the dose you need so you can cut the pills in half. (This only works if its something you take regularly).

If your doctor isn’t reasonable about costs, maybe it’s time to look at a new doctor. Just my thoughts.

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kenyantykoon September 27, 2009 at 5:04 am

This should make people realize that they should stop forking down those big macs and turn vegetarian. I like this post and totally agree with all you have put across.

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Erica Douglass September 27, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Vegetarian didn’t help me, but when I went low-carb (and then went gluten-free, as I was recently diagnosed with gluten intolerance) I dropped THIRTEEN pounds in 3.5 months…and I wasn’t overweight to begin with.

I dropped from a size 8/10 to 6/8.

I haven’t been this skinny since college. It almost makes being gluten-free bearable. ;)

I would definitely recommend low-carb (my nutritionist said fewer than 100g of carbs per day. A slice of bread is 21g.)

-Erica

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Greg@eliminatethemuda.com September 27, 2009 at 5:22 am

David – Great post and right on target. In a vacuum $42 might sound like overreacting, but consider your healthcare expense over a lifetime and these $42 add up big. A recent report by the employee benefits research institute revealed that a couple retiring in 2018 will need nearly $700,000 to cover healthcare related expenses (expenses not covered by medicare.) like co-pay and medicines.

This is why I made healthcare my 8th principle of financial management.

Especially with a new baby around one other easy tip to better health is cleanliness. Wash your hands regularly.

Most of all enjoy the bundle of joy. It will be the single most rewarding (and most expensive) experience in you entire life.

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John DeFlumeri Jr September 27, 2009 at 8:19 pm

I agree 100% that eating less and exercising is the road to health.
I wish I could eat less than I do.

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Erica Douglass September 27, 2009 at 8:47 pm

It is not as much about eating less (which you don’t want to do because you see it as deprivation) but about making smart choices with what you eat.

Calories, carbs, fat grams…there is a lot to count. My nutritionist simplified it for me by saying “Eat 100g of carbs per day or less and don’t worry about anything else.” My intention wasn’t to lose weight, but it fell off at about a pound a week.

You can try that, or something else, but just make sure it’s something you don’t view mentally as deprivation.

-Erica

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Kim September 28, 2009 at 11:23 am

indeed; counting calories and fat will drive you insane. No need for scales and measuring cups, there are easier ways.

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Wilson Pon September 27, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Sometimes, I feel that the doctors are truly “money-suckers”. They can easily charge us for less than 10 minutes talk. That’s why, I always take care my health very strictly, David.

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Craig September 28, 2009 at 10:35 am

This is why exercise is so important, they go hand in hand. If you are healthier you will have less health issues, spend less on medicine and doctor fees as well will be healthy to do activities and work you need to do which can enhance your life and make you more money.

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Kim September 28, 2009 at 11:22 am

Ditto to the above. It’s more about discipline – financial discipline and health discipline have many similarities. Just as you know you don’t really need that new CD/DVD, you know that hamburger/taco/chicken tenders are high in fat, you don’t need to count calories to tell you that. You know that tons of calories come from drinks. You know that salads are better, and can be healthy, if only you (not YOU MoneyNing, the generic “you”) knew how to make them. It’s just about implementing it.

But never fear, no need to COUNT calories once you know about how much calories are in everything – (I shall tout Eat This Not That – at your library.). I tracked them for free for a month on sparkpeople.com, and then went on my own. And, like financials, no need to cut out all of the fun. Go to a movie; have a hamburger here and there, have a slice of pizza (but not the whole thing, nor spend $5k on a trip to Vegas.).

And then there’s going on autopilot, like automatic bill pay – buy mini cans of coke, buy 100 calorie packs of goldfish.

WOW, I didn’t see all of the similarities until I got going. Too bad you can’t create an emergency fund of unused calories.

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marci September 29, 2009 at 3:31 pm

I wouldn’t go for just a cold…. if it lasts over 3 days, then that’s another matter… but that’s my personal choice. I save a LOT of money by NOT going to the doc on the routine matters. But I do go for the yearly checkups etc…. but staying OUT of the doctor’s office is a part of my financial plan – even with health insurance.

About eating everything on your plate….. use a smaller plate. Seriously – it works :) And NO seconds. Don’t put the food on the table where it is easy to just grab more. Eat buffet style – one portion of each thing, use the smaller plate, drink a big glass of water before hand, and do NOT go back for seconds. :)

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Andrew @ Financial Services October 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

There’s nothing truer than this. Simple example: you can do without health supplements if you eat right. Other cases are not so forgiving. If you don’t take care of your kidneys, you can very well be on a dialysis machine for the rest of your days.

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Kathleen November 10, 2011 at 7:55 am

No one ever addresses the financial challenges that people with chronic disease face. First they are dismissed by most traditional MDs, then when they figure out what disease they have (after 15 years of trying), insurance won’t cover their treatments. I now have $90,000 of debt because I have chronic neurological Lyme Disease. I self-diagnosed because no doctor in my state (or three adjoining states) had a doctor that recognizes or treats Lyme. For the first year after my diagnosis, I had to go to the West Coast to get treatment. Finally, a Lyme Literate doctor moved to my town so I am now being treated. The only insurance I can get is insurance for uninsurable people which is extremely expensive. Until this year I paid $800 per month for a $2,500 deductible. To reduce my expenses, I increased my deductible to $7500 and pay $588/mo. Since most LLDs can’t afford to be preferred providers, insurance covers very little of my doctor’s bills. Because of my brain problems, I can only work part-time for my sister. And what’s really shocking is that I’m in much better shape financially than my friends with chronic Lyme. Most of them are destitute. Meanwhile the Infectious Disease Society of America says there is no such disease as chronic Lyme. If you have any suggestions for the thousands of people like me with chronic disease, I’d love to hear them. By the way, until I became sick I ate a very healthy organic diet, was thin, never smoked or drank. A tick the size of a pinhead changed my life forever.

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slccom March 8, 2012 at 10:41 pm

The “eat right and exercise” magical thinking just doesn’t work, folks! Sadly, there is certainly an air of superiority in this post, and in many of the comments. Sorry, but no matter how well you eat or how much you exercise, you WILL die at some point. Our bodies are made to break down, and bad things happen no matter how self-disciplined you are. Genetics is a hard thing to break.

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