Health care in America. Wow! Enough words have been written on the subject of health care in this country to fill most of the libraries in California. It is a subject near and dear to the hearts of aging Baby Boomers who ache in more places today than they did yesterday. It is a subject near and dear to the hearts of new parents as they map out a future for their child. Health care is sensationalized, politicized, and pondered on by every channel on your set except for Cartoon Network. What do we know for sure? Health care is expensive in this country and is only going to get moreso. Are there any answers that can help? We think so and, toward that end, here is what we found.
The Cost of Diagnostic Tests and Procedures Vary: Your doctor gives you a piece of paper that tells you to go down the street and have an MRI. Not so fast. Some facilities charge hundreds of dollars more for x-rays and tests than competing providers. Shop around. A site called Healthcare Bluebook lists the high and low price along with, more importantly, the fair price in your area.
Alternative Care Facilities: Your well-connected doctor can be a valuable resource for savings on in-patient stays. Many urban centers have stand-alone surgery facilites that charge thousand a day less than hospitals. Even hospitals themselves charge different rates for different kinds of stays. Just as with tests and procedures, don’t always take the first option given.
Emergency Rooms Are a Financial Scam: Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh, but only a little. Urgent care centers and convenience care clinics will see you twice as fast and charge 80-95% less than the big E.R. down the road. Yes, you read that correctly. Ninety-five percent! Here is what you need to do, and before anyone is sick or injured. Find the nearest such facility. It may be in a stand-alone building or inside a drugstore or supermarket. They are great for sprains, strep throat, colds and flu, pink eye, ear infections, and rashes. They will even set a fracture! However, if you must use an Emergency Room, please make sure it is in your insurance network.
The Computer or Phone You Are On Right Now Connects to Your Doctor: Telehealth is another great way to save money and be seen quickly. Your insurance company will love you for it, as well. Normal cost is about $40, with a $10-15 copay. You can even email a picture of that nasty rash to the doctor and he/she will diagnose it for you. Do it. That thing worries me.
Fine-Tooth Comb Your Bill: Your hospital bill is long and complicated. The easiest thing is to toss it in the bill box, but don’t do it! An estimated 22% of hospital bills contain errors. Sometimes the errors are worth a few bucks, but sometimes the errors are worth several hundred dollars.
You Deserve World-Class Care: About 81% of employer plans include options of specialized centers for certain kinds of care, such as transplants, bariatric surgery, orthopedics, and cardiac and cancer care. You’ve seen the ads for Cancer Centers of America. Don’t shortchange yourself should the need arise.
Get Some Back on Tax Day: Out of pocket costs that exceed 10% of your Adjusted Gross Income are tax-deductible. Anyone who has gotten an E.R. or out-of-market bill knows just how easy it can be to exceed that threshold. Included costs are, for example, health insurance deductibles, copays, prescription drug costs, vision and dental care. Medical care related travel is tax-deductible.
Shop Around During Open Enrollment: This is especially important if you’re buying through a state insurance exchange. Providers are opting in and out, deductibles are flying around, and coverages are changing on a weekly basis. Open enrollment for the exchanges is much shorter this year (Nov. 1-Dec.15) so stay sharp and on top of it.
Get More Money From Your Boss: This one may sound like it belongs to another article, but it doesn’t. Many employers offer perks for staying well. These perks include a bonus for taking a health assessment or reaching health goals. That benevolent boss of yours may even provide free or subsidized gym memberships, fitness-tracking devices and health coaches. (This is likely not a “kindness of his/her heart” sort of thing. Lost time = lost revenue.)
Gildshire Magazines knows health-care questions are on your mind, because they are on our minds, as well. Together, though, we can navigate the choppy waters. After all, reducing stress is a major component to health. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more. To your health!