Medical care

Paid Medical Studies

Clinical trials for new treatments reach a point when they need human volunteers to participate. One reputable site is Covance:

To find even more local trials, check out the “volunteers” section of your local Craigslist. Even though it’s under volunteers, most of them pay you for your participation. Here’s a short sample of Craigslist ads in my area:



Horrendously Expensive Medications

The latest email from includes an article from a subscriber who couldn’t afford the $280 (!) co-pay on a prescription. He remembered those TV ads about how the manufacturer “may be able to help.” He called and explained his situation. They gave him a coupon for a month’s worth free. Since his was an acute condition, this was enough to get him through.

It can’t hurt to ask!


Drink Up, Old People

I had not realized before that the human urinary system qualifies as “old” as early as age 50. As the bladder muscle becomes less efficient and the immune system less responsive, it’s possible for people like me to have a dreadful urinary tract infection with no fever and sometimes no urinary symptoms! Sometimes the only symptoms are confusion and forgetfulness.

Dehydration is the most likely trigger for a deadly cascade that leads to kidney failure and sometimes death. In my youth, I gave no thought to dehydration. I knew young people who had UTIs and it was no big deal. Over 50, it is a big deal. Two years ago, A friend of mine, age 78, felt puny, didn’t bother to drink much, got a UTI, then kidney failure, and died, all within a week. Another friend, my age, was traveling, didn’t have as much opportunity to drink water, got a UTI, kidney failure, collapse, and luckily has survived. The recovery will take months.

So drink up, old people, water is less expensive than intensive care.

And dehydration doesn’t mean it’s been days since you drank anything. It’s possible to drink a little bit all day and still not be fully hydrated. Naturally, sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea will increase dehydration risk.

Watch out for:

  • dizziness and confusion
  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Bloody urine
  • Strong or foul-smelling urine odor
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pressure in the lower pelvis
  • Low-grade fever
  • Night sweats, shaking, or chills

In older people, watch for:

  • Confusion, or delirium-like state
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Other behavioral changes
  • Poor motor skills or dizziness
  • Falling

Doctor Amazon

Ever need a medical device, maybe a carpal tunnel wrist brace or walking boot? What did it cost?

Wandering around Amazon I saw a reviewer saying a walking boot for his broken foot would have cost $250 and insurance didn’t cover it. He bought it on Amazon for $40.

When I shop Amazon I always filter the search to include only four star or higher ratings, and eligible for free shipping (on orders $49 or more).


Medical – Hearing

I’ve known a couple of people who could suddenly hear just fine after a professional cleaned the wax out of their ears. Some home strategies for ear cleaning are likely to make a bad wax situation worse by pushing it further into the ear.

The drugstore kits with the little syringe bulb have worked well for some online posters. It’s important to soften the wax first, perhaps with olive oil or baby oil, and then wash it out with the syringe. It may come out more easily if you warm your ear first, whether with a hot compress or a heating pad. Sometimes you have to squeeze the syringe pretty hard to get enough force behind the water. It might be wise to boil the water first and let it cool, to prevent the admittedly minor risk of infection from the water.

Hearing aids make a world of difference to someone who has lost part of their hearing. It means a lot to their loved ones as well. They are also wickedly expensive. If you need hearing aids and can’t afford to buy them, check out Starkey Hearing Foundation’s Hear Now program. Contact them at /programs/hear-now/ and or (866) 354-3254. They also accept donations of used hearing aids.

Not all hearing aids are equally good for each person, and some are hardly any good at all. Don’t rely on a salesman; ask your doctor, ask AARP, ask the Better Business Bureau.

Something to know is that x-rays can damage hearing aids. Put them out of the room when having x-rays, including dental x-rays. Don’t leave them in a bag that will be going through the airport baggage scanner either.



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Medical – Basic Tests

Some labs offer special pricing for people without insurance. A few years ago, I got the standard annual physical blood testing for just $100 from such a lab in my local area. The support staff at the doctor’s office may know about these labs.

You can get low cost lab tests without a doctor’s order from Their number is 1-800-908-0000. Bert Fish Medical Center in Volusia County, Florida offers lab tests without a doctor’s order at very low prices. To look for something like this where you are, search on “direct access lab tests” or “low cost lab work,” and the name of your town or county.

Giving blood involves a kind of mini-physical. You learn your blood pressure, iron level, and cholesterol level. Many fire stations offer free blood pressure screening. Some drugstore chains have blood pressure testing machines. Many county health departments offer screening tests like mammograms and pap smears for little or no cost.



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.