Saturday, June 4, 2016

Living with Chronic Disease: Are coupons/discount cards worth it?

There are few people affected by a chronic condition that don’t have to worry about money. In an effort to understand ways to reduce costs, many wonder about couponing or discount cards. Is it worth it? Consider the following

• Check with the local chapter of your condition specific organization (e.g American Diabetes Association). They will often have special deals and coupons for medical supplies, including medications, and durable goods. Most of the conferences put on by these groups will have a vendor area where it’s possible to get vouchers, coupons and free samples all of which are helpful if it’s a product you use or think you might like to try. I’m a big fan of some of the amazing gadgets they hand out (usually medical supply company booths) that range from pill caddies/reminders to devices that make it easier to put on shoes. Specialized clinic/center at hospitals are also good resources for these types of thing.

Note that there is state based assistance for durable medical equipment, which can come from one of three types of programs (excluding Medicaid): Assistive Technology Projects, Protection and Advocacy Programs and non-Medicaid nursing home diversion programs. To learn more about what’s available in your state, go the List of State Programs

• Comparison Shop. If there is something you need, be it food, clothing, medications, cleaning or personal care products, it’s worth it to take a few minutes to do a little comparison research on-line. However, endless hours of couponing-particularly for groceries-is not a good use of your time.

• Food Couponing is not recommended since a high percentage of the items are “middle aisle” foods, meaning they are for snacking, heavily processed items, encourage impulse buying and ultimately cost more because these are products your body doesn’t need. However, if you are at the store and you see an in- store coupon for a product you were already planning on buying by all means use it.

• To reduce food spending try the following:
a)     Set a budget and stick to it. Track your spending and use cash instead of plastic. Keep meals simple and healthy, using what’s in season.
b)    Meat is not a requirement and if you do serve it, keep portions small
c)     Purchase generics (store brand) particularly for things like salt, sugar, or baking soda.
d)    Plan meals before you shop. That way you’ll know what to shop for. The free Weekly Meal Plan  from All Things Mamma, makes it very easy to figure out a menu and create your shopping list at the same time. Check store circulars for sales, as well as what you may already have on your shelves, as part of your menu planning. Make a list and stick to it. Eat before going to the store can also cut down on impulse buying
e)     Shop more than one store and definitely consider places like Trader Joe’s and the Aldi Store. Again stick to what you need.
f)     Avoid stores with gas credit gimmicks as they tend to have higher prices
g)     Purchase bulk for items that you will use-carrots and sweet potatoes can last a long time, strawberries can’t, unless you freeze them.
h)    Look for two for one deals on items that you would normally be using, have a long shelf life or can be frozen and it’s cheaper than comparative options.

• Shopping on-line sites like Amazon or Jet can be a real saver for those affected by chronic conditions. It allows you to shop when you have the time and energy, it eliminates a lot of the difficulties getting in and out stores, and your purchases are delivered to your door. Prices are often the same or even less than what you’ll find in the stores with or without coupons (and yes, some of the on-line sites do offer coupons). For a good comparison check out Where to Get the Best Deals Shopping online for Groceries 

• Cleaning Products/Personal Care Items: Both of these categories can be hazardous to your health and no amount of “savings” is worth it. For a more detailed information, including evaluating current products and alternatives, read Are Your Green Cleaning Products Making You Sicker? What about your skin lotions? 

• Pharmacy discount cards from AARP and other places. Are they useful? According to Consumer Reports, not really. However, they do suggest that store savings programs are a better option. A Drugstore Tool we’re not Crazy About  US Prescription Discounts and Script Relief  mail out pharmacy cards that promise average discounts of 50%. While not a scam, nationally pharmacies say that discounts are generally far below the advertised 50-70 percent off.

If this is an area where you are having issues, check with your pharmacist, medical provider and/or condition specific organization about patient assistance programs that could provide the best discounts. Every state has some type of Prescription Assistance, which your provider and pharmacy should know about and many pharmaceutical companies offer discounts as well.

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