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8 Tips From a Pediatrician on Managing the Costs of Children's Medical Care

WebMD Health News

Cutting Health Care Costs: Children's Care

(Editor's Note: This is the third in a three-part series on trimming your personal health care spending. The first two articles offer tips on cutting prescription drug costs and reducing the costs of doctor visits and medical tests.)

Dec. 11, 2008 -- Vaccinations, checkups, sniffles, fevers -- children need lots of medical care.

If those medical bills are piling up, pediatrician Andrew Racine, MD, PhD, has suggestions about ways to lighten your tab without compromising your child's health.

Racine directs the general pediatrics division at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York. Here are his dos and dont's:

1. Do look into local and state resources.

If you meet certain income standards, check with your state or local health department about insurance for your children.

"The first thing that I would advise people to do is to investigate what they may be eligible for, in terms of coverage, that they may not know about," Racine tells WebMD. "There are many, many families eligible to be on that program who are not enrolled."

2. Don't skip children's vaccines.

"I think of all of the things that we do, in terms of preventive health for children, that's probably the most important," Racine says. "It may even be more important than regular checkups ... prioritizing vaccines is an important thing."

Of course, vaccines aren't just for kids. Teens and adults also need to stay up to date with their immunizations.

And don't forget the yearly flu vaccine -- it's flu season now, and the CDC recommends annual vaccination for children who are at least 6 months old.

3. Don't water down infant formula.

Follow the instructions on the product's label. In extreme cases, watered-down formula can cause life-threatening disruptions in the baby's electrolyte levels; such a case recently happened in Florida, Racine notes.

Even if you don't add enough water to create an emergency, Racine says adding extra water to formula may still be a problem because the baby won't get as many calories as it would if the formula were prepared correctly, and that could hinder the baby's weight gain.

It's not clear how common that is. "It's only in extreme circumstances that they would come to medical attention," Racine says.

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