Take Charge: An Interview with Carmen Alexe, Healthcare Consumer Advocate

Photo Courtesy of Carmen.

Carmen is a passionate, outspoken champion for taking control of your own health. She writes her own blog, The Solitary Gal, about her pursuit of a healthy, content, and free life. We spoke with Carmen about the healthcare system in America, her experience in shopping for healthcare, and advice for anyone wanting to take charge of their own health.

Meet Carmen.

“I was born and raised in a socialist country, back during the Cold War era, meaning that I grew up with nationalized healthcare care. Now, the problem in such a system is that the quality of healthcare is low, the access is limited, and people do not have many choices.

I have been in the United States for many years and I came to appreciate the difference between free market and government-provided healthcare. There are many avenues in the free market sector that Americans can take advantage of, but I don’t think many are aware they exist.

If you ask me why anyone should care about free market healthcare, I say: you have choices, it’s less expensive, and you are in more control of your health. When you take charge of your own healthcare, you end up being a healthier person overall. This is my philosophy.”

When did you get rid of your insurance and start shopping around for your healthcare?

“I started back when the Obama healthcare act was enacted. My monthly insurance premium was going to more than triple. I decided that this was not something I was willing to go through. I have not had health insurance for many years now, except for catastrophic coverage.

At first, I was scared not to have health insurance, but I was already using the insurance I had before as more of a catastrophic coverage because my deductible was $7,500 just to keep my monthly premium low. That was the beginning of a new era for me – an epiphany, you might say. Because I’m paying out of pocket, what’s important to me is affordability and quality.”

Shopping for healthcare is a new idea, and the traditional system makes it hard. What were your initial experiences like?

“About three years ago, I wanted to do a bone scan. You hear about all these cases of women having osteoporosis and bone fractures, and I wanted to see where I am, because I’m middle-aged. I did my own research, and it took me a day and a half to find the lowest prices in my area. It was a lot of frustration, because a lot of facilities and imaging centers I contacted were not able to tell me how much it costs for a DEXA bone scan.”

There has to be a better way to shop around. Is that how you found us [MDsave]?

“This year, the same imaging center notified me that I’m due for my next bone scan. I called because I wanted to make an appointment, but I also wanted to know how much they were charging. The price was double what I paid three years ago.

I thought, ‘Here we go again. I’ll have to spend another couple of days to find the lowest prices in my area. Well, I did a quick search for the lowest price bone scan in my neighborhood, and sure enough I came across MDsave.

In two minutes, it gave me four providers who were very competitive within 50 miles. I was delighted! They gave me all the details: where they are located, how far they are from my home, how much they charge, and I also love the fact that they inform you that you need a doctor’s recommendation for this particular scan.”

Do you think shopping around for healthcare can benefit patients with insurance as well as those without?

“I really believe everyone should shop for healthcare, regardless of whether they have insurance or not. When you have insurance, you don’t have complete control of where to shop for your medical procedures, and you may be required to have tests that are not covered. This is where MDsave comes in as an amazing tool to shop for healthcare.

When you have a procedure done and you use your insurance, the price of healthcare goes up. When the insurance company is put aside, the cost goes down. I know of patients who bypass their insurance and they actually have better care and save money.

To people who do not have insurance: use MDsave, because this is one of the best tools available to help you save money and be in more control of your health.”

What’s the most important thing you want everyone to take away from this conversation?

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be proactive with your own health. When I had my bone density scan done, if I’d had insurance at the time and was not willing or able to pay for the scan myself, I would not have been able to get it done because I was too young to qualify under the insurance guidelines.

I found out I was borderline for osteopenia. Just think if I’d had insurance! I would never have known. The sad reality is that a lot of people find out too late. Be proactive with your health because in the long run, you’re going to be very, very thankful for it.”

Read more about Carmen’s healthcare savings and her experience with MDsave on her blog, The Solitary Gal.

There are 4 comments

  1. ArtNJr

    I’ve never had medical / health insurance, until I turned 65 this year. Now I’ve got Medicare Part A (no charge), but I opted out of Part B because the monthly payment is more than I spend on Dr. visits & prescriptions for some old injuries (back & knee). Periodically, my Dr. wants new X-Rays & I just had those done 2 weeks ago. I’ve shopped around on the internet & have seen MAJOR price differences for the same things; the X-Rays (5 from different angles) I just had done cost me $90. What does your insurance pay for X-Rays like that? Anything?
    Excellent example of how time-consuming & expensive dealing with insurance companies is: the best hospital in my area gives a 62.5% discount if you don’t have insurance & have to pay the bill yourself. In other words, if you had to go to the hospital & the bill was $20,000, but you didn’t have insurance & had to pay the bill yourself, it would be $7500.
    The main reason Dr., hospital & prescription costs are so high is insurance — if everyone had to pay out of their own pocket for Dr. visits, treatment in a hospital, and/or prescription medication, the costs would be MUCH lower. If you have really good insurance, you don’t care what a Dr., hospital, or pharmacy charges — and they can raise their prices knowing you & everyone else with good insurance don’t care about the price increases — as long as you don’t have to pay for it. But actually you do — because the vast majority of people do not monitor costs or shop around.
    Good example: when the Walmart pharmacy I’d been using for 3 years recently raised their prices, I switched my prescriptions to another pharmacy across the street. The price of my prescriptions jumped to $135 / month @ Walmart, but total less than $30 / month @ the other pharmacy & I have no insurance for medications.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    1. Kate Steurer-Mucha

      We agree completely! Shopping around for your healthcare benefits everyone, even people with insurance. It never hurts to know what your medical care is going to cost. To answer your question about X-rays, we aren’t an insurance company but we do have X-rays available at partners all across the country. All of our prices are out-of-pocket, so they’re the same for everyone, whether they have insurance or not. They also include all of the relevant fees, so you don’t get surprise bills afterwards. Here is a link to our X-ray page if you want to see what X-rays cost near you! https://www.mdsave.com/t/imaging-radiology/x-ray

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