Medical expenses are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy proceedings in the US. In 2007, 57 million people were in families who had problems paying their medical bills according to this article by Peter J. Cunningham. However, there are ways to cope with the rising costs of medical care. I was born with Spina bifida in 1979, and I’ve had a lot of experience in the medical care “system”. I have a few tips to share with you, and by following them some of your burden will be lifted.
First of all, medical insurance is extremely important even if you are a healthy person who never goes to the doctor. My brother, who’s 22, is healthy as a horse but has a decent medical insurance plan because it can be financially devastating to be stuck with a bill for thousands of dollars if you need emergency care. Some doctors will not even see patients without insurance. If your employer offers medical insurance, try to pick the middle plan if you don’t have a lot of medical expenses for you and your family. If you do have a lot of expenses, you should consider the plan that gives you the least out of pocket expenses. It’s more expensive per month, but for those of us who have many hospitalizations, or a family member who has a medical condition, this can save you so much money. If you aren’t offered medical insurance through your employer, find a reasonable individual plan. Find one that will leave you properly insured, not paying hundreds of dollars per month for something you can never use because the deductible is so high.
Realize that your doctor’s job is to treat and heal you, not to be a steward of your money. Therefore, keeping the lines of communication open regarding your finances is your responsibility. If your doctor suggests tests and procedures, discuss your financial situation with him or her and determine if all of the procedures are necessary. A simple blood test or one x-ray might be all he needs, and that could possibly save you hundreds of dollars. Ask the doctor to start with the minimum diagnostic procedures at the beginning of your illness, or the one he thinks is the most necessary.
If you don’t have a regular doctor, steer clear of the emergency room whenever possible and go to an urgent care facility. The basic visits for these clinics is about $75, and procedures are extra so discuss your financial situation there as well. You will be responsible for the cost up front most of the time but $75 is much more affordable than the thousands of dollars you’d be billed at the ER. Believe me, my husband has been there.
Call the billing office of your hospital and/or doctor’s office and negotiate payment. This is especially important if you are without insurance or under insured. They want their money, so they will work with you. Hospitals especially charge those who are without insurance or under insured a lot more than those who have insurance. Ask for those rates, or something comparable. Also ask for a repayment plan that is reasonable for your income. Not having any debt is important, but sometimes for those of us who have high medical expenses it isn’t a goal that’s feasible. Keeping those debts out of collections and bankruptcy court is an attainable goal.
Medical expenses don’t have to consume you. Simply doing research and working with your doctor’s office as well as keeping the lines of communication open between you and your care providers can not only save you money but also stress and anxiety. Who needs that when you’re ill?
This is a guest article from Kristin of Making Cents Out of Life. If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to Making Cents Out of Life’s RSS feed for more great content!