Babies go to the doctor a lot... for check-ups, for shots, for sniffles and fevers. Even when you have insurance, it's hard not to feel the pinch of all those extra co-pays. Fortunately, there are some smart ways you can save:
Know your insurance policy. A few minutes of research is well worth your time. For instance, most plans that cover prescriptions have a formulary (a list of drugs they cover). Before you fill your prescription, check to see if it's on the list. If it's not, ask your doctor if she could prescribe a different but equivalent medication on the formulary.
Sign up for your company's flexible spending account. If your employer provides insurance, there's a good chance it also offers employees the option of setting up a flexible spending account (or FSA). The accounts allow you to set aside pre-tax money to pay for medical-related expenses, including co-pays, prescriptions, and more. The catch is that you have to estimate how much you'll need for the year because they do carry a "use-it-or-lose-it" clause, but for young families with lots of doctor visits, the accounts can ease the burden. For more details, visit IRS.gov.
Explore coverage for your kids. Tens of millions of Americans don't have health insurance, which is why every state provides free- or low-cost health plans for children. There are certain income requirements to qualify, but the range may be wider than you think. To learn more about your state's program, visit InsureKidsNow.org.
Ask your doctor for samples. Pediatricians usually receive lots of freebies from manufacturers who want to attract new customers. Formula, diapers, vitamins, even medication can often be had for free, so don't be afraid to ask!
Check out dental schools. Healthy mouths make for healthy bodies, but dental coverage can be even harder to come by than medical. If you live near a dental school, however, you might have easy access to low-cost care. Students work under the close supervision of a faculty member, so you'll receive safe and quality treatment. Go to ADA.org and click on "education and careers" to see if there's one near you.
Make prevention a priority. So many illnesses can be short-circuited by really simple steps: Wash hands frequently and stock up on alcohol-based waterless cleansers; feed your family healthy foods (no need to ban treats completely, just keep them, well, treats!); get enough sleep (at least 7 hours for you and 10-plus a night for kids). Sure, sometimes germs defeat even our best efforts, but instilling these healthy habits into your growing family now will help keep them well for life.
This article was written by the publishers of Parents and American Baby magazines.
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