Ready or Not #231: Creative Medical Treatment

For 14 of the 20 some-odd years that my husband and I were raising our children, we did not have health insurance.  We were both self-employed and we simply didn’t have the disposable income to purchase an affordable health plan.  It was frustrating, but with a little ingenuity and planning we were able to face our health challenges head on.  Of course back then, we were younger and healthier and we really didn’t have to worry too much about falling apart. (That came later.)

One of the ways that I gave myself free mini-checkups was to donate plasma.  I knew that I was in good health and that I had healthy blood and so I felt that it would be a noble thing to do – that and I needed the money.  The practical side of donating is that when you initially sign up you are given a free physical and then each time you visit you get a free blood test.  Granted they are very basic tests, but they do make sure that you are healthy enough to donate – and that is pretty healthy.

Some people that I have talked to just didn’t get it.  They would come back with statements like, “Well, what if your blood tests came back negative and they won’t take your plasma?”  I always found that response a little short-sighted because the obvious answer was that I would then go to the doctor and pay him to find out what was wrong and take care of it.  The point of me donating plasma and having these free “mini-checkups” was so that I wouldn’t need to go to the doctor unless there was a need.

Fortunately, I have insurance now, but it hasn’t been so long ago that I haven’t forgotten how hard it can be.  What got me thinking about it today was an online article that I read about how people are using medical testing studies for their free medical checkups.

I’m not talking about becoming a lab rat, but rather about helping pharmaceutical companies and doctors carry out very controlled medical tests to help develop their product or test their medical hypothesis with you as the beneficiary.  I hear advertisements for these testing companies on the radio all the time asking for people who have uncontrolled diabetes, bunions, people who need to have their wisdom teeth removed, and a variety of other ailments.

When my daughter was in her teens, she needed to have her wisdom teeth pulled before they started to damage her very expensive teeth alignment procedure (a.k.a. braces). But I just didn’t have the money.  (I was still paying off the braces.)  On our way to school/work one morning, my daughter and I heard an advertisement asking for people to participate in a wisdom teeth pain removal medicine trial and that the participants would be compensated for their time and participation.

My daughter was excited about the compensation and I was excited about the free wisdom teeth removal, but then I started to feel guilty and concerned about my daughter being a guinea pig.  Still excited about the compensation part, my daughter insisted that I call and find out more about the program.

In my daughter’s case the researchers were testing an already approved pain medication to see if the pain reliever worked on the specific pain that wisdom teeth extraction created.  It was a double-blind test and if you were given the placebo (somebody has to get it) and the pain was just too much, they would give you a known pain reliever and all would be well.

After thoroughly investigating the company and the medications that they were proposing to use on my daughter, she and I decided that it would be safe to be involved in the study.  She had to have her teeth extracted anyway and it was a matter of us paying to have it done or having someone pay us to do it.  She got $300.00 for her pain and suffering and to this day she said that it was worth it.

I got a daughter who was happy to go under the knife. I was rid of a potentially very expensive bill, and on top of that my daughter got a full physical for free.

I’m not saying that you should run right out and sign up for the first medical study that comes along. But if you are in a crunch without insurance and you need a medical procedure done, you might just want to consider participating in a test study.  Not only will you save money, but you will get a free physical and money to spend on anything you want (preferably non-medical stuff – like maybe food storage!)

These are just two different examples of how our family beat the non-insured blues.

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