Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A1C & Other Blood Tests without Insurance - How to Save Money

Have no health insurance but need a blood test done?  Shop around!   A few phone calls and a short drive saved me $40.

Finding a lab to have blood tests done at was actually a bit of a challenge.   I started by googling "Lab Test" which brought up links to somewhat shady looking websites where I could pay up front for tests.  Some of these pages had sections about "Finding a Local Testing Facility" where you could search for a local location.  This gave me phone numbers to call.  I also found using Google Maps to be helpful.

After some reading, I discovered that there are two large Diagnostic companies in the United States, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp.  It seems that most other websites are just making money on referrals.  So you can find locations by searching those websites for nearby labs.  But finding out prices turned out to be much more difficult!

A little background info.  On the advice of my doctor, who told me to not go to the lab in her building because they would charge a small fortune, I went to LabCorp last time.  I didn't like them.  Their office was messy and they were very disorganized.

So I tried to find out the price for Quest.  Their website has lots of information, but nothing about cost.  So I called them.  At first, I got the run around. After calling for the third time, and selecting just the right numbers to press on their automated system, I finally got to a live person (hint: you need to select "billing").  But, when I asked them the cost, they hung up on me!

Fortunately, I found another place on Google Maps called AnyLabTestNow.  They gave me the prices over the phone - $49 for the A1C Test and $49 for the Basic Metabolic Panel that my doctor ordered.  Note, I had a labwork order from my doctor, but AnyLabTestNow advertises that you can get any test without a doctor's order.  (Well, a sign on their door said that they couldn't do Ebola or Flu tests, so maybe it should be really called almostAnyLabTestNow!)

With those prices in mind, I went to the closest Quest Diagnostics location in person.  They told me that the total price, including the draw fee, was $139.  I said no thank you, and went to the AnyLabTestNow place.

I started to worry if there would be a "draw fee" tacked on, or any additional fees or taxes, but there wasn't.  The price was exactly as quoted, the staff friendly, and the place was clean.

But what's the biggest surprise of all?  AnyLabTestNow sends the lab test to Quest Diagnostics!  So I saved $40 and got the test done by the same lab!!   I told the person working at AnyLabTestNow about how it was cheaper for me to have the blood drawn there and she was stunned.  Now, my guess is that AnyLabTestNow has a contract for lower pricing than what Quest gives to uninsured individuals.  It turns out that AnyLabTestNow is a nationwide business, so they may have one near you.  You can search their site to find out.   Of course I can't verify that they always use Quest, or that they will continue to do so in the future, but this is quite an insight for the price conscious consumer!

Why Quest doesn't offer a discount or coupon for self-pay is anyone's guess, but the lesson I've learned is that comparing medical prices can really pay off!

I encourage you to shop around and you might find an equally surprising deal! Don't go to a hospital lab because according to my doctor and Forbes Magazine*, they cost more.  Maybe you'll find a cheaper independent lab, but if not, you may find a storefront that sends its tests to Quest for cheaper.  And you may be able to order the test online to get a cheaper price as well, but buyer beware - do your research first!

All that said, $98 is still a lot of money for two lab tests, so next time I may see if I can use the A1C Now Home Self Check Test, which is currently selling for $39 and you get 2 tests for that price!  The test results only take 5 minutes and it is supposed to be "lab accurate." I asked me doctor what she thought about it and she said that some doctors use it in their offices so she thought it was probably fine.  I may buy it and bring it to my next doctor appointment!

* An Interesting Article: Blood Money: LabCorp and Quest Turn Medical Testing Into Cash

Natural Menstrual Cramp Relief - What really works?

I've tried a lot of supplements and "natural" products for my crippling menstrual cramps, and the only one that works for me is curcumin.  Curcumin is an extract from the yellow spice turmeric, which is used in Indian cuisine.  However, in its solo form it is not well absorbed by the body, so the product I use actually combines curcumin phytosomes  with phosphatidylcholine to greatly increase absorption (other products combine it with black pepper, which is also an effective formula).
Doctor's Best Curcumin Phytosome
Curcumin Phytosome

The exact brand/product I've been taking is Doctor's Best Meriva Phytosome Curcumins 500mg Vegetable Capsules.  I take one capsule twice a day, every day (not just during PMS time).   Curcumin is known to reduce inflammation and has been used for other kinds of pain and its general anti-oxidant properties.  I actually started taking it for other medical reasons and was surprised by its positive effect on my time of the month.

Before taking curcumin, I had crippling cramps, that even full prescription strength ibuprofen couldn't relieve.  Also, accompanied with the cramps, I was getting diarrhea that hurt so much that I felt like I was going to puke.  The one thing that did work for my cramps was birth control pills but after taking them for 10 years, I began to worry about the risks (blood clots).   So I decided it was time to ditch the oral contraceptives and try something natural.  

I also like heat pads.  You can use the old fashioned plug-in type, or if you need something more portable, you can wear Thermacare Heatwraps under your clothes.  They provide 8 hours of heat!  They have special heatwraps for menstrual cramps, but other ones can work too. Check out this comparison of thermacare heat wraps.

I tried a lot of other products, but none consistently delivered results.  The problem with "testing" these alternative remedies is that I couldn't tell if they were working after just one cycle because some months were easier than others... So my search for a solution has been a long one.  I've been experimenting for years.

All women are different, and what doesn't work for me, might work for you.  Sometimes you have to keep trying until you find something that works.

Here's everything that I've tried:

Curcumin:  My winner!  I use Doctor's Best Meriva Phytosome Curcumins 500mg Vegetable Capsules.

Magnesium: No cramp relief for me, but it does seem to help with PMS sadness.   Try a chelated type like Doctor's Best High Absorption Magnesium for maximum effect and no side effects!

Fish Oil - I tried high dose for months, but sadly, it has no noticeable effect on me.

Progesterone Cream - I thought it was helping at first, but then it stop working.  I'm not sure if this is a good idea.  While it's natural, it is still a hormone and may have risks associated with it. (The brand I tried was: Source Naturals Natural Progesterone Cream)

Natrol PMS Control - A blend of herbs, like Gymnema Extract, Dong Quai Extract, Ginger Extract, Parsley, St John's Wort, and more.   It didn't help my cramps.  However, many of the ingredients seem to have merit for other ailments.  For example, I use Ginger for dizziness, and St John's Wort works as an anti-depressant for many.   They do prescribe an anti-depressant for PMS (Fluoxitine or Prozac) but that's for the mood symptoms rather than the cramps.

I hope the above list of what I've tried helps.  Remember to always discuss supplements with your doctor and check for interactions.  "Natural" does not equal safe!

More Information - Websites I Recommend

Menstrual Pain - University of Maryland Medical Center.  They have information on symptoms, causes, and treatment, including nutrition, herbs, and supplement suggestions. Curcumin - Scientific information with summary of studies and effects.