Updated: Mar 15, 2019
The Results are In Recently, I sent out a survey asking rural Moms about their healthcare concerns. The results of the survey were not shocking. In fact, it confirmed that I am not alone with my frustrations when dealing with our healthcare system. I have yet to talk to a person who has benefited from government mandates on health coverage. If you are self-employed and live in a rural area, then I am talking to you because you probably have been struggling too. I will show you how we have kept our healthcare costs down over the last 5 years.
A breaking point Seeing that this is a page for rural homemakers, perhaps you can relate to my situation. Several years ago, I quit my job to become a stay-at-home Mom. With that change in employment, we lost our health insurance coverage through my employer, leaving us to find our own. At first, we found decent coverage on the open market. We had average premiums with average co-pays. The next year, our carrier's premiums increased about 20%, however, we still found them to be competitive in their pricing. My youngest was still a baby at the time, so we had all those baby and toddler wellness visits to pay for. Several months went by, and yet another letter came telling us about another premium hike (by then I started to get irritated). We were now being asked to pay 50% more for premiums.
My insurance agent assured me that "this is normal" and "you will probably have to shop around every couple of years". So, shop around I did. We found another company, transferred all our records and health history, went through physicals (again) and switched companies. Imagine my shock when 6 months later THAT company sent a letter telling us that they were DOUBLING our premiums. We were pretty healthy in general, so we changed companies again, and this time opted for a "safety-net" plan. The lowest premium, but no co-pays and a high deductible. What were we paying? A little over $900 per month with a $20,000 per person (you read that right) deductible. SO, for a bargain price of $10.8k, and after meeting $80k in deductibles, we would have had superb coverage. This was the best we could find. The day came when I was crying when I wrote out my monthly premium check and I vowed to find a better way.
Maybe I can help other families save some money by showing you what I have learned.
1. Consider Alternative Coverage I didn't even know such a thing existed. But one day, when I was telling my "sad story" to a friend, she told me about another way. She introduced me to a Christian based cost sharing program. Now, this is NOT insurance, so you will have to open your mind a bit and have a LOT of faith if you want to consider this as an option. Simply put, health care cost-sharing is a Biblical approach to paying for health care. Each member commits to sending a set “Share” amount each month. These “Shares” are sent directly through the mail from one household to another, to the members with “Needs”. Every month we receive a letter from the company. In that letter, we are assigned a family to help, then we send a certain amount of money directly to that family. If we have a need that arises, we submit that need to the company and they assign an appropriate number of families to send money to us.
It is a beautifully simple system. The costs are low for a few reasons. Because it is NOT insurance, the company can be selective as to who can and cannot join. Members are only allowed in when they meet certain prerequisites, like those who are generally healthy and leading a healthy lifestyle. They also can keep the shares low, because many things are excluded from payment that a conventional insurance system cannot exclude (such as alcohol or drug related injuries, rehab and birth control).
My family uses Samaritan Ministries and we have truly been blessed to be a part of this system. As of this publishing date, this counts as coverage so we are not penalized at tax time. There are other cost-sharing programs out there, and you might find another one that is right for your family. Feel free to comment to other readers about a program that has worked for you.
2. Change your Diet, Feed your Cells They say an ounce of prevention...You know the rest! Probably the biggest way we have saved money is by improving our health in general. Commit to eating better TODAY. You don't have to start a fancy fad diet or spend tons of money. Just simplify! Drink more water, eat more fruits, vegetables and healthy protein, cut back on your sweets and processed foods. There is a WEALTH of research out there that shows how food can be your pharmacy. Your cells need the proper fuel to function efficiently. This fuel is oxygen and nutrients, and your cells need to function properly in order to help rid your body of waste products. So, in the most basic way, which foods you eat can effect your health at a cellular level. You can choose to feed those cells the high quality nutrients they need, or you can starve them.
This may sound a little hokey, but when I plan a meal or a snack for my family, I like to think that I am feeding an army. This army isn't those cute lil' country boys, it is the army of cells that is defending our bodies. If I feed that army empty calories (high calorie, low nutrient food) then they won't have the energy to do their jobs correctly. But if I pack those army rations with nutrients, they will thrive. Isn't it amazing that out of the billions of cells that make up "us", if just one type of cell fails, it can cause disastrous results? This "army" explanation is great for the kids too, and I don't struggle as much when trying to get them to eat good food.
3. Shop around and use public health
It will take time and energy, but shop around when you are looking for healthcare. You may find that you would pay twice as much for office visits from one doctor to another. If you are limited to only one doctor, you can also check with your local public health offices or clinics. Often-times they offer a sliding scale payment plan based on income. The same services that you get at a private practice are often offered at reduced rates since these are usually not-for-profit organizations. They also typically offer free screenings for children such as visions and hearing, and wellness checks. Your child's school may also offer free screenings in areas such as vision, dental and hearing. If this is the case, you will likely get a referral letter if there is a problem.
Another thing to consider are health fairs. Many communities offer free or reduced cost health screenings and blood-work through annual health fairs. Just check with your local hospital or chamber of commerce for more information on health fairs in your area.
Finally, when shopping around, make sure you check with your local and state affiliations (like cattlemen, wool growers, farm bureau). If you are carrying traditional insurance, sometimes you can get discounted rates through these organizations.
4. Do It Yourself (DIY) I am not suggesting that you set your own broken bones or rely on the internet to diagnose your medical condition. I'm referring to the price mark-up of simple things that you can easily make at home. Marketers spend millions of dollars to get you to feel like you need a certain item to be a good Mom. But you might just be getting played by their tactics. Do your research and find tried and true home remedies and recipes for common household supplies.
Here are some examples of ways we save money on just a few health related items: -You can easily spend $4-5 dollars a pop on antibacterial wipes because you think they are cleaning up germs, but you can make your own re-usable wipes for pennies. Besides that, if you read the warning label on your beloved wipes. Are they really that healthy for you? Our homes were not meant to be hospitals, and we really don't need to destroy every germ. -What about diaper salve, bug-bite cream, or hand cream? Make your own multi-purpose cream for a fraction of the cost of purchasing retail. -Oral care is crucial to your overall health. You could be spending $2-3 or more on toothpaste or mouthwash that is loaded with unnecessary junk and fillers. Again, these are easy recipes to make yourself.
-Clean up your cleaning supplies. Fragrances and harsh chemicals that are found in every day cleaning items can irritate your lungs and skin. Using tools like herbs and essential oils can save you time and money when you make them yourself.
The beauty of DIY is that you can make items in bulk and maybe even swap with neighbors and friends. This way, you aren't paying for packaging and advertising. Many of these home-made items also serve more than one purpose. I know a few dollars here and there doesn't seem like much. But when you add in the cost of time and travel, as well as trashing partially used items due to expiration dates, you will end up saving more that you imagined by making it yourself.
5. Change your Mindset, Count your Blessings This one is a little more abstract, but trust me, it works! When you are worried about what will happen and how much money you will need if you get sick, you put yourself in an emotional state of stress and worry. Guess what happens? Studies suggest that there is a significant relationship between daily stress and the occurrence health problems such as flu, sore throat, headaches, and backaches.
On the other hand, if you can find a way shift your mind-set to the positive and focus on what you need to do to remain HEALTHY, you have created positive emotions, less stress and better health! So what can you do besides eating right? The old sayings of fresh air and sunshine can do wonders to lift your mood. Exercise enhances your mood both in the short term and in the long term. Besides the obvious health benefits, you get the emotional benefits as well. Focus your mind on healthy habits like quitting tobacco, drinking more water and of course eating a healthy balanced diet. Feed your soul and mind through daily scripture reading, and finding peace in what God has to say about how much He loves you!
When our family shifted our focus away from worrying about money and insurance, and set our minds on God's blessings and toward living a more healthy lifestyle, then our health issues reduced dramatically.
Another shift in mindset can occur when we realize that we do not have to rush to the doctor for every little sniffle. When you are in an appointment, use the time you have with your doctor and talk to them about when it is necessary to visit, and when you can ride it out. If you ask, they will likely give you detailed guidelines of when a visit is necessary and when you or your child just need rest and TLC. Most doctors that I know would tell you that they don't like charging for unnecessary visits anymore than you like paying for them.
And finally... Treat your body like the temple that it is. When we take a pro-active approach to our health with God as the focus, then everything else just falls into place. This article is NOT meant to be taken as medical advice. These are personal testimonies of things that have helped OUR family. Please don't ever hesitate to seek your healthcare professional to address your specific needs and concerns.