It was once thought a good health insurance plan provided comfort by covering medical bills in the event of an emergency. But is that still the case today? Unlike car insurance, most individuals don’t have health insurance that will pay all expenses after a $500 deductible. In fact, many Americans have health insurance deductibles that are over $5,000 or $10,000. This can put consumers on the road to financial hardship, because when the medical bills start rolling in, the patient is responsible for thousands of dollars upfront before insurance kicks in. Even after a deductible is met, many plans also include coinsurance, which requires policyholders to pay a percentage of their medical expenses until an out-of-pocket maximum is met. So how does one avoid extreme medical debt?
There are ways to get in front of medical expenses before it escalates, such as asking for paid-in-cash discounts or utilizing a health savings account. But for the 41% of Americans that don’t even have $500 in emergency savings for the unexpected, there is little they can do if they have a critical illness or chronic condition that requires multiple doctor office visits and hospital stays.
The Dawn of Health Care Consumerism
Technology advances have made medical records, test results and other health information more accessible on the web and smartphone apps. Organizations like Save on Medical offer access to discount pricing on medical procedures and imaging services. And the Affordable Care Act ushered in a new era of online health insurance comparison shopping, which is new to the marketplace. All signs point toward increased responsibility for health care outcomes being shifted more and more on consumers.
Health care and business attorney David J. Holt believes we are entering into the age of the educated, empowered health care consumer.
“Health care is a business. Advocating for yourself in health care is not easy, but well worth your time and effort for health care dollar savings,” says Holt.
There are several tactics you can take to help lower your medical debt, and be proactive about future expenses. Some cost savings tactics include knowing how much a procedure costs before it happens. “You are responsible for your education and you will pay yourself in health care savings. You have a right to know exactly what you are paying for and the cost of each service provided,” advises Holt. When in doubt, ask questions of your health insurance company and your provider.
Holt also advises consumers to use the magic phrase, “I am willing to pay something but unable to pay the full amount.” In nearly every instance, providers will work with people who are willing to pay because the cost of late notice billing and collections costs much more than a bill paid over time.
There are more step-by-step tactics Holt can offer HealthValues members. Login to send Holt your medical bill negotiation question through your dashboard, or join HealthValues to begin enjoying all of the benefits included with membership.