Medical debt is such a downer. Did you know that 42.9 million people in the U.S. with overdue medical debt owe an average of $1,766? Plus, medical debt is the number-one reason people declare bankruptcy; it’s been that way for years in this country.
If this sounds familiar, know you’re not alone. What’s especially frustrating is getting an unexpected or inaccurate medical bill in the mail. But there are ways to avoid unnecessary medical expenses. It takes proactivity on your part. Here are a few considerations to save money:
An integrative approach to healthcare takes into consideration the whole person. The patient and doctor work together to address physical, emotional, social and environmental aspects of the patient’s life.
Instead of going from one doctor’s office to the next, you may be able to get treatments and answers from one provider. You could end up paying one copay instead of several. A doctor who is trained in multiple disciplines can streamline or integrate your care in a complete manner so that you receive a clear picture of your health and the kinds of treatments that might benefit you.
According to Bradley University, a survey of 29 integrative care centers found that integrative medicine is most effective in treating a number of conditions including chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety/depression, stress and cancer.
If you do plan to see an integrative practitioner, you’ll want to know how much the first appointment costs, plus follow-up appointments, and if your insurance covers it, if there’s a sliding fee scale, and other costs for tests, supplements, etc.
When it comes to health, money and debt, the last thing most of us want on our credit reports is excess medical debt. This is why integrated care is the best thing to happen to healthcare in a long time.
Clinical integration is the “coordination of patient care across providers, settings, and time to achieve safe, effective, efficient and patient-focused care,” according to Regis College.
Patient information is shared among all healthcare providers to ensure patient quality and access. This style of care is not only more convenient for the patient and family members, it can result in reduced duplicacy and redundancy, plus a reduction in healthcare costs.
The Regis College infographic cites a 10-year study at Intermountain Healthcare Medical Group which showed a reduction of healthcare costs for the 113,000 patients in the study. Payments to providers in a team-based practice were about $3,400 versus $3,515 for patients in traditional practices.
A number of providers, hospitals, doctors and insurance companies will give you an estimate for planned procedures, but you have to make some phone calls. Some hospitals even have websites that will give you an estimate of out-of-pocket expenses. Do your research before you schedule appointments or procedures because it could save you money in the long run.
You may have to comparison shop as well. What an X-ray or MRI costs at one clinic may be cheaper down the street. It could save you a few hundred dollars or more.
At the very least, do you have enough money in your savings account to cover your deductible? That’s a good place to start. You’ll also want to save for all of the out-of-pocket expenses within your health plan. Those $50 copays throughout the year can add up, not to mention the out-of-pocket costs for any procedures you plan to have done. Build your cushion up and don’t dip into it.
Know What Your Insurance Covers
Most insurance plans include one wellness visit per year at no cost to you. If you haven’t had a physical in a long time, take advantage of your yearly exam with an in-network provider. Free screenings are also part of the preventive health package. You may be able to get mammograms, colon screenings, skin checks, blood pressure tests, and diabetes screenings for free.
Double Check Your Medical Bills
Billing mistakes are all too common unfortunately. Unless you want to pay a professional coder to scan your medical bills for you, you’ll have to do it yourself. If you don’t know what a code means next to each itemization, ask what services you’re being charged for. Or if you don’t know why a procedure isn’t being covered by your insurance company, have it clarified.
One estimate shows that 90 percent of hospital bills contain some type of error. Double billing, incorrect procedure codes, and wrong pricing can all happen. Humans make mistakes, but the onus is on the patient to be vigilant.
Medical bills are a part of life, but it doesn’t mean they have to drive you into debt. By being proactive with your healthcare, you can save money and avoid unnecessary medical expenses.