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Bartering for Health Care

If you are self employed or have a job without benefits, you probably find yourself paying out of pocket for expenses like dental care, eye exams, glasses, contacts, chiropractic service, and most other things it takes to keep oneself running like a well oiled machine.  You might find yourself putting off routine care because getting a teeth cleaning is not the most glamorous way to spend your money.  One way to avoid depleting your bank account is through bartering. Obviously, you can barter for just about any product or service if there are willing parties.My post today is about bartering for health care services because I happen to have some experience in this field.

If you’re new to this blog (and who isn’t? I’m not even a month old!), I am an optometrist in private practice. If you have some skills or products that might be useful to me or my businesses, you can bet I’m interested in bartering.  Bartering is a win/win for both traders because you both get what you need or want at reduced costs. An eye exam only takes my time, and any products I offer will be at my cost.  There are some rules and courtesies you need to follow, though, if you hope to be successful at bartering.

Don’t Assume Everyone is Buying What You Are Selling

If you are an artist, you might think your paintings are worth a mint. To someone else, they might seem like a 1st grader’s art project. Bartering works better if you know that the person you want to barter with needs or likes what you have to offer.  I happen to love landscape photography and had already purchased a picture from a local photographer. He knew I  needed wanted more art for my office. He also needed an eye exam and glasses, and asked if I wanted to barter. A relationship was born. He always has nice, new glasses and I have an office full of landscape portraits.  Another patient wanted to trade her paintings for services.  I did not care for her style of art and did not agree to the deal. She was really offended and told me how poor my artistic taste was, but I won’t take something I don’t like or need.

Work Out Details Before Services are Rendered

If you are bartering with someone, make sure everyone is aware of the details. Are you trading evenly, or is one person still going to owe some money? Can you take a credit if your barter is worth more than the other person’s?  We recently needed a new windshield. I called around for prices and then just threw out the question, “Does anyone there need an eye exam?” It turns out the owner’s wife did, so we did the exam and I was to pay the difference. She ended up getting glasses as well, so the new windshield was fully paid by the barter. Sweet deal!

Make Sure the Provider is Able to Barter

You can’t show up at the emergency room with a goat, a basket of eggs, and a broken leg and expect to get that x-ray you need. Bartering wouldn’t normally work for medical doctors, emergency visits, or with chain stores. Even if the provider wanted to barter, they don’t have the authority. Private practice owners are more likely to agree to a trade. Make sure the owner is aware and agrees to the barter. If something is arranged under the table with an employee, it can cause tax problems for the business and potentially get that person fired!

Be an Expert in Your Field

You really need to have some expertise in what you are offering.  If you don’t know the person you are trading with, you might need to provide references or samples. Nobody wants to trade for website design with someone who has never designed one.

Over twelve years, I have had many rewarding barter experiences. That’s one thing that I will miss when I sell the practice. In addition to the landscape photography and new windshield, I have traded my services and products for family portraits, massages, a new office logo and sign, upholstery services, interior painting, handyman work, and my all time favorite, meat. Yes, the Schwan’s truck guy asked to trade some steaks for a pair of sunglasses. Girl’s gotta eat, right?

If you have some skills or talents that might appeal to the masses, it never hurts to ask if the person who has what you need wants to barter. The worst answer you can get is no.

Have you ever bartered? If you have, what is the strangest thing you’ve traded for?

 

 

 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

12 comments

  1. What an interesting post. I did barter with a client once for an old blog I used to own, and got free airline tickets in exchange for advertising space. It was well worth my time and energy!
    Elizabeth @ Simple Finance recently posted..My Dirty Mortgage Qualification SecretMy Profile

  2. I’ve always loved the idea of bartering, but never done it. I don’t really have anything anybody would want, nor do I have any actual skills or talents. :-)
    Jen @ Master the Art of Saving recently posted..Closing, India & #Fincon12My Profile

  3. I have not bartered in the past. Because most providers are not able to negotiate, I price-shopped to save $700 on a CT scan recently. It seems like it’s hard to find a place that is willing to negotiate prices, especially when it comes to health care.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Six-Month Goal: I joined the Yakezie ChallengeMy Profile

  4. The phrase that completely ruined my strategy: “You can’t show up at the emergency room with a goat, a basket of eggs, and a broken leg and expect to get that x-ray you need.”
    AverageJoe recently posted..Getting Out of Debt Isn’t a GoalMy Profile

  5. Have you thought about the IRS implications of bartering?

    http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc420.html
    Donna Freedman recently posted..Why I have life insurance.My Profile

    • We put barters through our system just like cash sales. Charges are entered, and the payment is recorded as a barter, so the transaction still shows up on our books just as a cash or credit card purchase. A very small percentage of sales are barters, but it all gets turned over to the accountant at the end of the year, and he’s never needed any further correction. I never try to keep anything under the table. It’s just too risky. Good point!

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