Medical Savings

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Medical Savings

We had to take my son to the emergency room again the other night. We aren’t the type to go for every little thing and usually go only for big, gaping, bleeding things but it does seem like we have to go there pretty frequently– so much so that I keep an "emergency room" bag packed and hanging by my purse. It includes snacks, sewing supplies, books to read and so on because going to the emergency room can and usually does mean a many hour wait. When the kids were little, I would sometimes have to take the child that wasn’t hurt with me, too. They would get hungry or restless and the things in my bag would help.

Recently, my son dropped a large log on his toe, cutting it and smashing it severely. (This is a hazard you don’t always hear people talk about with regard to heating your home with wood)  He is fine and needs just to be on crutches for a few days but he had a good tip for me to give to our readers.

When the doctors were fixing his toe, the nurse took out a large tube of antibacterial ointment to apply to it. He asked her "Are you throwing that tube away?" She said "Yes," and asked if he wanted it, since he had paid for it. He told me that it is a large enough tube that it contains enough ointment to last his family 3-4 years. Then she took a huge piece of gauze and cut a small piece from it. Again he asked to keep the remains.

You can ask for these things. My mom has gotten scissors that they used when putting in stitches or tweezers when they took out stitches. Also, be careful if you are admitted to the hospital to take your regular medications with you or have a family member bring them to you. These are called self administered drugs (medications which you take on a daily basis). Be sure to tell the doctor you are taking them and have them with you. Not all hospitals will allow you to do this but some will, so you might as well take them and ask if you can use your own medicines. It will be much less expensive than if the hospital provides them.

My mom had to go the the hospital and stayed there one night. They asked what regular (self administered) medications she took and she told them. The hospital staff gave the medications to her while she was there. Later, she received a bill for $529 just for 3 pills and 1 aspirin. She called the pharmacy and found out that a 3 month supply of all of the same pills together would only cost $125. If she had brought her own medications with her it would have cost nothing.

This is a perfect example of how many leaders (people in charge of hospitals, schools, government and business) are so messed up in their thinking and can’t use common sense regarding how to save money on medical costs, school costs, business costs, etc.

It isn’t that we need more money but we need to use what we have more wisely.


P.S. I didn’t write this to open up a can of worms about the medical issues happening in our country right now. I’m not burying my head in the sand, I just don’t want arguing on the blog. Please keep this in mind when you comment because if there is negative stuff I won’t post it. I just wanted you to be aware of some things you can do to save yourself money and to let you know not to be afraid to ask to take these things home with you.

P.P.S. I do appreciate all of the great nurses and sometimes doctors who ask if I would like to take things home because I have paid for them and they are about to be discarded. These people are a super help and kind in so many ways. Thank you nurses.


photo by: agacombahia


  1. says

    Holy smokes woman! How old is your son that he’s smart enough to figure out to ask for the stuff and figure out that it would last your family awhile. He’s not even my child and I’m so proud of him!

  2. Brenna says

    The last time I was at the hospital with my daughter, she was in a croupe tent and had to have breathing treatments. The nurse we had told me that the tubing they used for her breathing treatments would hook up to our machine at home and suggested that I take it with me because they would just have to throw it away….that’s when I realized what you wrote above about all the other stuff too…you pay for it whether you use it all or not. Thanks for everything you do.

  3. Cheryl says

    OMGoodness, I never would have thought about those things! Right on! I wonder what my husband’s meds cost when we he was admitted to ER and then for surgery for a few days. I was so relieved to find out it was operable and not disease, I completely forgot about his other meds. I never saw a bill as my insurance paid, but I bet…man! I am glad to know this!

  4. rose says

    sorry to hear about ur son jill… but i hope he will be feeling better soon these days…

    i had no idea that you could ask for stuff and maybe get to keep those items…
    thanks for sharing this with us…

    yes it is soooo sad of the health ins situation in this country… and our seniors have it worse tooo…
    not being negative, but they worked hard all their lives and i feel they deserve better…

    *now off my soapbox* hehehee :D….

    thanks again for posting this jill… i know i will pass this info to my friends and family 😀


    ps how are the grandkids? just curious

  5. Jan says

    I know at some hospitals you can’t take meds that you bring with you. You can sue them if you take a pill from a bottle you brought from home and it kills you (too bad, you’re dead, the kids get the money LOL). There is no reason that they should charge that much for asprin but they’ve been getting away with it for years, and don’t think that it will get better soon. I work at a hospital (not as a nurse). It is true that you can take any of that stuff home, but you do have to ask, they won’t just give it to you (as they can take it home if you don’t). It’s not ethical, but they don’t care. thanks for all your great tips

  6. says

    I always keep a two day supply of meds for my husband and I in my purse. For those just in case moments.
    That way we have them if an emergency comes up when we are out of town. Or for when we decide to extend a day trip to the city to an over nighter.
    If you are in the hospital and get those paper gowns instead of the cloth ones instead of tossing them in the bin take them home.
    They make great bibs if someone has to eat in bed.
    If given a prescription at night from emergency ask if you have to take it as soon as you get home. If not wait until a drugstore opens and get the normal price if you aren’t covered by a drug plan. The hospital staff may think they are helping but if the cost is such that you eat beans for a month to cover it how does this help.

  7. jill says

    Denise my son is 36 years old. He has been doing this type of thing for years. He, like Tawra is forever dragging things home from work and every where. He always asks his boss first and at most of his jobs he has had such a reputation that his co workers brings to him before they throw it out to see if he wants it.

    When he first was out of high school he worked at a furniture place and they threw out all kinds of furniture. He got me a table one week and the next 4 chairs all of which they were putting in the dumpster for little imperfections.

    He has gotten many things over the years like rolls of new carpet, laptop computers all just because he asked when they were throwing them out.

    I know it gets confusing to our poor readers sometimes to know if it is me (Jill) or Tawra ( my daughter) who are writing things.

    I have the grown kids and hers are younger although even her kids are starting to do the same thing. They had a paper recycling bin at school and Tawra’s daughter who was 8 at the time asked if she could have some things out of it and they said “sure”.

    I had a friend once who said I was the only one she knew who went to the recycling center solely for the purpose of picking up things and rarely leaving anything off. I try to find a use for everything.


  8. Angie says

    I’m a nurse- in our hospital you can take your home meds IF your MD writes an order saying that it’s ok. The pharmacy has to check each bottle to make sure that the pill inside matches what the label says. We’re not trying to make things difficult for our patients- it’s a safety issue.

  9. Rebecca says

    When our baby was put in the hospital for Kawaski’s disease, we were told to take everything that wasn’t nailed down by her infectious disease doctor. We took her bp cuff, her stethescope, everything. When we have a baby, we always take everything that is in their little mobile bed….like the diapers, the changing cloths, the paper liners, etc., as once they stock that stuff into the bassinet, they are charging you for it and you are paying for it. I don’t know if they throw it out or keep it and take it home but you definitely pay for it. Even the little pacys or anything….you are paying for it. My husband was working at a hospital when we had our first baby and all the nurses and personnel told us to take it or it would be thrown away. Another one of our babies has had several surgeries for a birth defect and we always took pretty much everything that had been touched by her/us (not sheets and such but you know) or anything that had to be opened for us out of a package, etc., as you are charged for it. This is just one of the things you don’t think about it and then you think “well, of course, they charge me” in retrospect.
    Also, agree that changing the health care system is not the solution.

  10. Rachel says

    When my 16 year old son was young he had allergy and breathing issues and often was at the doctors office. They would sometimes give him breathing treatments, and he loved the little mask, thinking it was a Darth Vader mask! He would get upset if he didn’t get a breathing treatment because he could not take one home. Thanks for reminding us to take our own meds to the hospital. They told my mom it was fine for her to take her own. I am honestly trying to figure out who is in support of government run health insurance. All my family and friends who do not have health inusurance do not support it. They see the ridiculousness of it. Also, I think there are a lot of resources out there already that people just don’t know about. My allergy dr. recently told me that she volunteers one afternoon at week at a clinic that is paid for with a federal grant. Patients bring their pay stubs with them and they are charged on a sliding scale. We have a medicaid and a medicare system in place. I do feel bad that people work 40 or nearly 40 hours a week, mostly in retail and the service industry, and they are not offered insurance, or it is such a rip-off, why get it? When my daughter worked at Olive Garden I read the insurance policy they offered for her to buy. I told her she was better off to save $200 a month just in case she got sick, then pay the bill herself. The insurance company was just going to collect the $200 premium and then hardly pay for anything.

  11. Vicki Fisher says

    Between my husband and I, we had 6 surgeries in less than 2 years. Our hospital does not allow us to bring our own meds with us. But we do bring home pretty much everything that we can. Once they prescribed me my inhaler, which I only use occasionally. The respiratory therapist told me to be sure and ask for it when I went home, as it had been charged to me. I never used it in the hospital (or even saw it, it was prescribed for just in case), and was still billed for it! So I asked for it when I left, and flustered the nurse. I guess it is not a common request, and she had to get someone’s permission, but I did come home with it. People just don’t know to ask, so it isn’t a common occurrance, I believe.

  12. maciccu says

    For safety reasons, many hospitals will not let you take your own meds from home. You can try, but you don’t have much chance of this happening.

  13. Karen says

    Glad we don’t have to worry about stuff like that in Canada – I can’t imagine having to get permission to go to a hospital to get treatment or maybe deciding not to get him treatment because I couldn’t afford it.

    Hope your son is better. Love your website!

  14. jill says

    It really depends on where you live and the hospital but I have been too many myself and talked to others who have no trouble with any of these things – taking their own meds or asking for things which have been used for them and would be thrown away.

    Shortly before Christmas my mom had to go to the hospital in Colorado and took her own meds with her with no problem.


  15. Kat says

    I work in an inpatient pharmacy in Virginia. Here, we allow patients to bring in their home meds. But we cannot dispense medications (like your ointment) for outpatient use. They do not have proper labeling. (There are actually laws about what info has to be put on a prescription label dispensed by a Pharmacy)

  16. Stephanie says

    Hi – They are required to throw these things out as to not spread infections to other patients in the hospital. The hospital doesn’t know if the patient is a carrier to MRSA and so they can’t reuse these things. It is a good idea that your son asked for the items. One cheaper option might be to go to an urgent care facility. That is what my insurance is doing on the plan I am now on. They will hardly pay for an emergency room visit unless it’s a “real” emergency. I applaud my insurance for offering a plan like this.

  17. Sandra says

    I am a hospital nurse and I second your suggestion about taking what you can home with you. If you have surgery or stitches always take any dressings, tape, waterproof pads, etc that you are using in the hospital. We charge those things to the patient by the box when we issue them and because of the danger of contamination they are never taken back to the supply room or used on another patient. When you leave they are thrown away even if it a box or package that has never been opened. If it is ever taken into your room or treatment area then it is charged to you. Also any disposables like the pillows on your bed, water pitchers, wash basins, etc. Those insulated water pitchers are perfect for pouring up your allowance of water when you are trying to increase you intake and keep it cool for hours when working outside. For the really thrifty even things like IV tubing makes the perfect tie for plants as it is soft and flexible and the kids love those little 1 oz medicine cups and straws to play with.

  18. says

    At our hospital you can take meds from home if they are in the original bottle.
    If the emergency room gives you a prescription you can buy enough to get you through until the pharmacy in town opens to fill the entire prescription.
    You can’t take things home from the visit because tax payers pay for it not you.
    There is government insurance in Ontario it is called the Trillium Fund where you pay so much and then get a cut on all prescription drugs and eye care as you require it.
    OHIP pays for all basic medical care which each year seems to have a larger list of paid for things. (I feel they should cut back on the list) but that is another story.
    If you require to be transported to another city they use medi-vac planes and helicopters and you might get a bill but it is not all that much. My daughter in law had to be medi-vaced to a city 10 hours away by car and she was there in under an hour. $90. bill
    so far we have not had to worry about medical bills since my husband gets his through the company he works for. The union negotiates for it and so far it is fantastic.
    $2. each prescription.
    new glasses every 2 years.
    private hospital rooms.
    ambulance or medi-vac paid completely.
    and if he is sick for longer than 6 weeks they pay most of his salary until he is back at work.
    Some of this coverage will still be in place when he retires through his pension plan.
    I think looking from the outside that Obama has tried to change too much of your system too fast.
    I think looking from the inside that the provincial government has added too many services and we can’t afford to pay for them any more.
    Neither is great but changes need to be thought out more carefully.
    I am just glad that my husband works for a company with a union or we would not be doing so well if we had to pay out of pocket for all the medical care not much right now but we are getting older.

  19. says

    be thankful you are where you are in this world of medicine and cost.

    my son is living in China his wife is due to have a baby any day now.
    right now his mother in law and wife are trying to think of the best gifts (bribes) to give the drs. so she will have a semi-private room (2 patients) instead of 4 or 6 or be stuck in the hallway.
    It is not money that gets you things it is who you know or who you can buy.
    My son is far from poor but not really rolling in dough either so we told him to get her as private as he could and we would cover the costs. Turns out it doesn’t work that way. If they get the right dr the right gift and then someone else gives another right dr a better gift she could lose the room or have to come up with another better gift.
    We told him that if they don’t have the right gift to take her home as soon after the baby is born as is possible. They have a nurse coming to he house to live there for a week or two when Qian goes home anyway so that should not cause a problem.
    But money to my way of thinking is a far better arrangement.
    They would have come home to Canada for a few months before the baby was due so she could have it here but she wanted her mother to be there. Can’t fault her for that but it would have been more normal to my way of thinking to do it the way we do.
    Oh well life will do what it wants with us no matter what we plan.

  20. Paula says

    While in the hospital, the person in the next bed went home, and left everything behind…The cleaning crew threw EVERYTHING out, as they prepped the room for the next patient… You might as well take it all with you as it can come in handy for lots of uses (basin for sick kids,toothbrush for jewelry cleaning,toothpaste is perfect size for travel,hand lotion bottle for your purse,etc), or at least recycle it…. Last year I had stitches in my leg….When the nurse came to the house to remove my stitches, I kept the suture removal scissors…One of the blades has a smile shaped cut out which allows the scissor to go under the stitch…I cleaned it with alcohol and it’s become my FAVORITE scissors for crocheting, as I can cut apart stitches without destroying my work… I understand why they have to toss the stuff (bacteria), but the cost of it boggles the mind!!!…Here’s to a Happy and HEALTHY NEW YEAR for ALL of US!!!! God Bless!!!

  21. Sandra says

    As a nurse I can tell you that even though most hospitals frown on taking your home medication, if you have your doctor write an order for the medication stating that you may take your home medication and keep it at your bedside the hospitals will honor it. That is only if he/she specifies each individual medication and the dosage you are to take. For safety sake it is necessary that the hospital know each medication you are taking. Without those specific records they have no way of knowing if any new medications ordered may interact with medications you are already taking and don’t think it is enough to just tell your doctor what you are taking. #1 he cannot possibly remember every medication and dosage every one of his patients is on and it is unreasonable to expect him to. #2 a lot of orders result from a phone call to the Dr. at 3 am or may be written by a doctor who is on call for your doctor and knows nothing about you so make sure there are written orders on your chart for nurses and pharmacists to see and serve a safety back up, And never, never take something that is not on that written list out of your purse. That is a good way to wind up in trouble.

  22. Sandra says

    P.S. Always have pills in original pharmacy bottles. Never take one of those little pill packs or bottles with several medications mixed together. And never, never take a bunch of pills to the hospital for Mama or Daddy to take if you are not going to be there to administer it. I am not going to put my nursing license on the line to give Mama some little white pill that she doesn’t even know the name of. There may be a hundred different “little white pills” some of which we can identify by a code number and some we cannot and I am not going to risk giving something that I have no idea what it is and harming a patient.

  23. Maggie says

    I am a liver transplant recipient and always take my own meds with me to the hospital because I take so many and because I have a specific timeframe to take them which doesn’t always work with the nursing staff. My doctors don’t mind and usually write an order so I can take them but sometimes I have argued with the nursing staff about it. Once they see that I know what I am taking and understand my timetable, they are more agreeable although I do realize they need to monitor them because of new drugs that might be prescribed while I am there. Sandra, I appreciate their due diligence about the medication and hope it saves them time. Paula, I, too, use the scissors with the u-shaped tip for cross-stitch and my husband likes them to trim his mustache. Also, Jill, we use the washbasins for gathering veggies from the garden and keep the nemesis basins in the bedrooms in case of sickness. Lots of uses for the other items and the small toothpaste and soaps are perfect for traveling. I have been in the hospital more times than I can count and bring everything home. The Chux pads are wonderful if someone is ill at the home. And I love the water pitchers. I keep one at home and one at the office. Keeps water nice and cold. Thanks for the reminder. I am heading to the hospital tomorrow for a liver biopsy so will remember to bring home the Emla that numbs my skin before the needle goes in.

    • says

      Maggie I hope everything goes well with you tomorrow. Boy sounds like you have had your share of hospital stays and that is an understatement. Good tips. Thanks so much.

  24. Maggie says

    Working from home today. Liver biopsy done and waiting for results. Not as scary as I thought. A nurse friend was working at the hospital and she made me feel so good. She reminded me that I was a pioneer in the transplant world and that the biopsy was just another step along the path. She really touched me. I am a little stiff in the middle where they took the sample but feeling better every hour. Thanks for your comments, Jill. Life goes on.

    • says

      Oh good Maggie. I am so glad it wasn’t more uncomfortable for you. You never can tell on these things and so glad your friend was there. There are some nurses that I think are angels sent from heaven and we do so appreciate them. Hope you don’t have to wait to long for the results. Sometimes it is awful having to wait.

  25. Maggie says

    Well, the results of the biopsy are in and there is a concern that the sclerosing cholangitis that caused my original liver to fail may have reared it’s ugly head and is affecting my new liver. This may be an autoimmune disease but that is still in discovery stages. I now have to schedule an MRCP which is an easy way to say an MRI of the Liver, pancreas and gall bladder (no longer have one of these). The doctors can then determine what is next. The funny thing is – I feel good. A little tired some days but hey, I’m 65 and working full-time and am allowed to feel tired once in a while. So, the next step in the process begins. In the meantime, my kidney numbers are getting better. This is good. Shoulder is not improving though and I think a reverse shoulder replacement is on the horizon. I was decluttering some old magazines Sunday afternoon and the repetitive motion of moving them around has caused pain again. A little Tylenol helps. Day by day.

    • says

      Thanks for keeping us informed Maggie. My goodness I’m not surprised you are a little tired with all you are doing and just having to deal with all the tests and things can be wearing in and of itself. I am so glad you are at least feeling good through all of this and that your kidney numbers are doing better. Keep letting us know how it is going. You have a lot you are dealing with it sounds like.

  26. Maggie says

    Thanks, Jill. And the hockey team better win tonight or I’m going to have to deal with a very grumpy husband, too. :)

  27. Maggie says

    Well, the Caps won the game last night. Happiness in our home. Now, on to game 7 Saturday night. Another evening fraught with peril. I had a friend over to share a pizza last night while the game was on and it made the evening go so much faster. I get so anxious in these playoff games. you’d think I was playing.

  28. db says

    Jill – my husband used to work in a hospital, and since then he is always asking for stuff when we go to the er – for instance, dd had stitches and he asked for extra bandages and packets of neosporin, which they gladly gave us. no charge on that (surprise). He has asked for the soap they use (that squeezy sterilizing kind) if they did not use it all. he is not the cheap one, I am, but after seeing the waste in the hospital he now always asks.
    other ways to save on health care – ask you doctor for samples if you are prescribed new meds. Also, I get my diabetes meds from a pharmacy which dispenses them for FREE, which saves me $20 per month. And my best medical money saving tip – DON”T FILL PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PETS AT THE VET, you can often get a much better deal at COSTCO or other pharmacies, especially if your pet is taking the meds on a regular basis and you have time to shop around

    • says

      Super ideas db. Love the vet med ideas too. I know so many who are being eaten alive with vet meds and their expense. Thanks for the tips.

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