Tips to Slash Your Medical Costs

Shop Around for Best Prescription Deals

As they say in real estate, "location, location, location." Many large retailers offer popular prescriptions at incredibly low costs, so it pays to shop around.

For example, Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs offer 30-day supplies of 360 different types of generic drugs at a price of $4 per prescription, and Target offers 315 different medications at $4.

You can also save big money by ordering your prescription medications by mail. Many prescription plans have this option, and you need to take advantage of it.

When you order a 90-day supply of medication, most plans will waive a good portion of your deductible. You can save up to 35 percent on your monthly co-payments, or about $90 a year on the average prescription.

There's just one caveat: make sure the prescription is supplied from a U.S.-based pharmacy, so you know the medication meets all U.S. safety standards.

Slashing Your Medical Bills, New COBRA Subsidy Cuts Costs by 65 Percent

Medical issues are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy, and you need health care as protection against that. If you are laid off, the easiest way to do that is to get COBRA protection from your former employer.

President Obama's new stimulus package has made it much more affordable. There's now a COBRA subsidy that covers 65 percent of a worker's premium for up to nine months. Those are huge savings.

Most families will now pay only $350 a month, down from $1,000 and most individuals $130 a month down from $370. Keep in mind, though, that the COBRA subsidy is limited to workers who are laid off between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009.

Your Children May Be Eligible for Low Cost Health Care

Every state provides some form of health coverage for infants, children and teens whose parents fall below a certain income level.

For example, in my home state of Illinois, a family that earns between $42,000 and $63,000 annually, only pays a $40 monthly premium for each child and a $10 co-pay for physician visits under the program. To find out your state's requirements and program details go to www.insurekidsnow.gov.

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments in Chicago, is "Good Morning America's" personal finance expert. Click here to visit her Web site, www.arielinvestments.com. Amar Parikh contributed to this report.

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