Posted 5/15/2006 10:27 AM (GMT -8)
I can't help your IBS a whole lot, but I do read a lot about living frugally, so maybe I can help you on that front.
You mentioned you lost your job because of not being able to work with all this going on. Have you tried for Social Security disability? It's a shame you aren't still working there, or you could just take unpaid leave under FEMA and be able to keep your insurance. Of course, disability will probably take some time to get (a lot of people seem to get rejected the first time just because that's policy, not because you don't deserve it); but just keep on it. Since you are unemployed, you may qualify for your State's medicaid program. This should especially be true if your husband is also disabled/unemployed. If you have little to no income, then you can probably qualify for food stamps, reduced electricity, water and telephone bills. My mother got my stepfather's poor, elderly aunt a lot of stuff by just calling around and asking. You can also look at one of my favorite websites, www.stretcher.com which is a weekly e-newsletter for people living frugally. You can search their archives for all sorts of stuff. I know advice has been given for the uninsured on there before. And you can find all sorts of ways to cut costs, even do a little work at home on the side to help you be able to afford your medical bills.
The first course of action would be to contact your local healthy department, tell them your situation and see if they can direct you to the proper agencies for getting some health insurance. Also inquire as to what all services they provide; in the future you can use them for about 1/10th of the cost of a doctor's clinic. I know I have gotten immunizations there before for just a few dollars.
If your bills start to mount, make sure you read up on bankruptcy laws and make sure you don't endanger your assests, like house or 401k by borrowing against them to pay medical bills; bankruptcy laws usually protect those things, but not if you have encumbered them. Medical bills are unsecured and can be discharged in bankruptcy; don't secure them with anything material like your house or car or you will lose that. Also, you can always negotiate when you get a doctor or hospital bill. Call up their billing department, tell them you are unemployed, without insurance with a disabled spouse and you need to make this bill manageable. Ask them to give you the same discount they would give an insurance company, then agree on a monthly repayment plan that YOU can afford. They'd rather get paid off slowly than not at all. Make sure you are firm that you can pay THIS amount and no more. Laugh off threats. Then write all of the terms down and send them a copy via return receipt. Keep a copy of the return receipt and the letter. If you ever do move into bankruptcy, this proves to the judge that you tried being reasonable with them and tried to pay your bills and puts you in a much more favorable light and if they sue you for the money (if you don't declare bankruptcy), then they are much more likely to lose because the judge will say, hey, she's offered to pay; what more do you want? Can't get blood from a turnip. When you need to go see a doctor in a clinic, talk to the receptionist first and say, hey, I'm paying cash for this today because I don't have insurance. What kind of deal can you give me? Be willing to ****er. Why shouldn't they charge you just what they would get from an insurance company, if you had one? If you're paying cash when service is rendered, you're saving them the time and money of sending you a bill and filing with an insurance company, so you are really less work. If you're not hung up on seeing only one doctor, then shop around; call different clinics and find out what rate they will give you if you pay cash. I have also read that you should do this on your medicines because costs can vary wildly (huge markups!!!). And in one example I read, the superstore-places were one of the worst offenders; I think it was the little mom-and-pop pharmacies that did the best. Just get out the phone book and start calling and ask for the price of the medicine you need. My fiance has Express scripts which will mail him a three month supply at, supposedly, better rates than a brick-and-mortar drug store, however, I don't know if this company is part of his insurance plan, or if it's something anyone can use. You can try looking them up online.
Also, if you are on name-brand drugs, look up the manufactuer online and see if they offer coupons or discount cards, especially for low-income or uninsured people; a lot of them do. Even if they don't offer any on their website, if you find a name-brand drug that works but is pricey, call them and tell them your situation and see if they won't give you some coupons. Also constantly beg your doctor's office for their samples.
Unfortunately IBS can cause some extreme swelling and pain. From what someone was saying on an earlier board, librax is an anti-spasmodic and some sort of anti-anxiety medicine. You might want to get in touch with your doctor and ask for two seperate medicines that do the same thing. Explain that you have no insurance, so you need older, generic drugs to start with. And if someone hasn't given you some sort of pain mediciation, make sure they do it. There's all sorts of generic pain pills out there that shouldn't cost too much and you should have something to take when it gets too bad. A lot of doctors seem reluctant to give anybody medicine for pain, like everybody's an addict or something. When my gall bladder was bad, I had to get my mother to just about twist my doctor's arm to give me a fairly low dose pain pill. And even then it didn't help when I had my big, three-week-long attack.
Have you tried ITC meds for gas? Gas-X is popular here, but I have used chewable anti-gas tablets before and they work and are a lot cheaper. Ask the pharmacist what's the maximum number you can take; you are swelling so bad you probably need more than just the average dose. Unfortunately, since you vary between constipation and diarrhea, it's hard to recommend anything else since it will probably just make you swing back and forth even worse. A lot of ladies on here, though, recommend fiber because it can help both constipation and diarrhea. I think a lot of people are on Miralax. You can also try a product called "Equalactin"; it made my bowels balance out--when I wasn't having a gall bladder attack--but it can get pricey: a box is $3.99 and it doesn't quite last a week. Once you get straightened out on it, though, you don't have to take so many and you can make a box last longer.