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12 Ways to Save and Stay Healthy

Here's how to cut costs on health for you and your loved ones

spinner image 99 ways to save, Dr Charlotte Yeh
Dr. Charlotte Yeh shares how to take advantage of free health tests and exams.
John Loomis

Charlotte Yeh, M.D., Medical Expert

1. Free advance directives

An advance directive documents your end-of-life medical care wishes. You can download a directive that meets your state's legal requirements at

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2. Check your hearing using your landline phone

The National Hearing Test at is a scientifically based screening funded by the National Institutes of Health. The simple, quick test is $5, but free for a limited time to AARP members.    

Amy Goyer, Caregiving Expert

3. A respite for veterans' caretakers

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a temporary break for caregivers by paying all or some of the cost of an in-home health aide or for the veteran to attend an adult day center. Find details at, or call 855-260-3274 toll-free.

4. Get some volunteer help

Check with your local area agency on aging for programs like Senior Companions, in which volunteers visit your aging relative. Visitors check up on your loved ones and free up time for you to do chores.

5. Try a "granny pod" rather than building an addition for an older relative

This is a prefab structure — with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette — that you can put in your backyard.

6. Check with Medicare before buying health equipment

The federal health insurance program will often pay part of the cost for walkers, canes, wheelchairs and hospital beds.

7. Widen doorways for less

People with walkers or wheelchairs often can't fit through narrow doors. A low-cost solution: Install offset door hinges. They can add an extra couple of inches to the doorway.

8. Need a ramp for curbs or stairs?

Consider a "suitcase ramp," which can be folded and carried like a suitcase, then pulled out when needed.   

Karen Pollitz, Insurance Claim Expert

9. Get help in disputes

You have appeal rights when a medical claim is denied or insurance pays less than you think it should. Most states have a consumer assistance program that can help you file appeals and resolve disputes.     

Patricia Barry, AARP's Medicare Expert

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10. Make sure you meet the conditions for free services

You can get many preventive tests and screenings at no cost. But you must go to a doctor who accepts the Medicare-approved cost as full payment, and you must observe any time limits for the test, such as once a year.

11. A "wellness" visit by any other name would not be free

You can have a free "wellness" doctor visit once a year covered by Medicare, if you ask for it by that name. But if you ask for a "physical"—a more comprehensive exam—you'll be charged full price.    

Jacobo Mintzer, Brain Health Expert

12. Save by skipping the sweets

Chronically high blood-sugar levels can hurt your health and brain function. For a sweet fix, have a small piece of dark chocolate.

Charlotte Yeh, M.D. is chief medical office at AARP Services, Inc. Amy Goyer is AARP's caregiving expert. Karen Pollitz is a senior fellow at Kaiser Family Foundation. Patricia Barry is AARP's Medicare expert. Jacobo Mintzer is a member of AARP's new Global Council on Brain Health.

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