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Controlling Medical Expenses

In the rough-and-tumble world of a child, scrapes, bruises and sniffles are unavoidable. But parents can do a lot to help limit those unplanned visits to the doctor or emergency room-and trim their out-of-pocket health costs at the same time.

Seek Health Care Wisely

  • Get all the recommended preventive care. Well-child visits, immunizations and dental checkups are an investment in your child's future. They can help prevent illness and keep small health problems from becoming big, life-changing ones.
  • Don't demand antibiotics-not for colds, flu or even a child's ear infection. But if your doctor assures you antibiotics are likely to be effective, use them as advised.
  • Teach regular hand washing habits. Germs can be picked up from other people, surfaces, and animals or animal waste. Washing hands is one of the best ways to prevent transmission.

"Well check visits are the time when your child's pediatrician not only reviews physical growth and development, but also has conversations about school progress, relationships with family and friends and any concerns you or your child may have," says Nancy Knowles, MD, medical director for Children's Physicians.

Avoid Retail-Based Clinics
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opposes retail-based clinics, or quick clinics, as an appropriate source of medical care for children. Some families use these quick clinics for minor childhood ailments because they believe it's cheaper. However, many of these families end up back in the pediatrician's office after visiting a quick care clinic, so they actually end up paying double the price. In addition, a 2009 survey conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that over half of the surveyed physicians who reported seeing families within 24 hours of a quick-clinic visit disagreed with the prescribed course of treatment.

Other concerns with retail-based clinics include:

  • Ordering too many tests to determine a diagnosis, which can become expensive, plus offering no follow up on the test results.
  • Lack of access to and maintenance of a complete, accessible, central health record containing all pertinent health information.
  • Inappropriately prescribing unnecessary antibiotics.
  • Possible public health issues that could occur when patients with contagious diseases are in a commercial, retail environment with little or no isolation, especially grocery stores.

Ensure Kids' Safety
Injuries account for more than half of all emergency room visits by children ages 5 to 14. To keep kids safe:

  • Supervise young children indoors and out.
  • Have your child wear a bicycle helmet. That lowers the risk for serious head injury by as much as 85 percent.
  • Use child safety seats. These are proven to reduce the risk for injuries and deaths in infants and toddlers.

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Childhood obesity, rampant in the United States, has been linked to diabetes, asthma and other costly diseases. To help keep off extra pounds, encourage physical activity and healthy eating.

  • Encourage children to play sports. Get them away from the TV and computer and out on neighborhood walks with you.
  • Limit fast foods. Stock your kitchen with fruit and vegetable snacks. Keep high-fat, high-sugar foods and drinks out of the house.