For young families living on tight budgets there are services available that may help curb their health-related costs.
Many families just starting out have small incomes and find it difficult to pay for necessities including health care or health insurance. But there are services available to help those who qualify.
For example, county health departments provide services at a discounted rate. At the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, people can get their blood pressure checked for free on Mondays. The health department also has clinics for women's health, such as pap smears and gynecological exams, pregnancy testing and confidential STD testing. The health department also has vaccination clinics for adults and children.
"Many county health departments have an array of services that are available to the public that can reduce a family's health care costs. A good example are immunizations. If a family has no insurance, immunizations at the local health department are for the most part free of charge, as well as no co-pays or office visit costs," said Administrator Howard Gamble.
"Families with insurance can also get their immunizations at most health departments as well, again for free or a small charge based on income. There are some eligibility requirements, and these may differ from state to state. Immunizations also help with future health care costs by preventing expensive hospital or doctor office visits when an individual comes down with a vaccine preventable disease."
Gamble noted health departments often enforce policies that aim to keep people healthy, such as the smoking ban in Ohio County.
- Use network providers that are part of your health insurance plan's coverage.
- Get recommended preventive care - Getting regular exams, screenings and immunizations can save money in the long run by catching problems early or preventing them altogether.
- Consider utilizing county health departments for some services, such as flu shots or other immunizations
- Choose the right level of care - When you need care, knowing your options can save you time and money.
- Ask for generic drugs.
- Take advantage of health plan savings and support programs - Check to see if your health plan includes programs like help to quit smoking,fitness incentives, health assessments and other ways that you can get support to be healthier or save money.
- Take care of yourself - A healthy lifestyle is in your control. You'll feel better and have lower
health care costs.
"On a larger scale public health services and roles such as Medicaid, CHIP or other federal and state public health programs also assist in the decrease of health care costs. Public health improves the conditions and behaviors that affect the health of each and every one of us," he said.
"Public health battles against deadly contagious diseases and promotes healthier lifestyles. Public health seeks to reduce incidences of preventable diseases, minimize the consequences of catastrophic events, and provide the basics of sanitation, safe food and water."
To keep new mothers and their infants healthy, the federal Women, Infants and Children program provides food vouchers and formula to women who are pregnant or mothers with children younger than 5 years old. The program was started to combat anemia and improve the birthweights of babies. To be eligible, women who meet federal poverty guidelines must either be pregnant, post-partum, breastfeeding or have a child 5 years old or younger.
The program is meant to supplement a family's diet, not be its main source of nutrition. By using the vouchers, a family's remaining grocery money can be used to buy meats and other types of fish - two foods the vouchers do not cover.
"WIC helps you save on groceries so you have more to spend on other things your family needs. WIC is for all kinds of families: married and single parents, working or not working, foster parents, or legal guardians," Gamble said.
In addition to staying healthy by eating the right foods, families should also get regular physician checkups.
But for those without the means, there is help available locally. Wheeling Health Right provides health care free of charge to those who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. It also helps with prescription drug costs.