The American healthcare system is fraught with problems. Patients complain of long waiting times, widespread medical fraud, and gender and racial bias. Furthermore, understaffing and medical errors add fuel to the fire. However, the high costs of treatment are the fundamental issue most American citizens face while seeking treatment. Patients often have to borrow money from friends or get personal loans for treatment. Some have to crowdfund to pay for treatment plans, especially those suffering from a terminal illness.
Things got worse during the pandemic. Hospitals were already crumbling under the weight of these issues. But the rise in Covid-19 infections turned things into a nightmare. Clinics went through mass shortages of vital equipment as thousands of patients rolled into hospitals. Testing facilities were overwhelmed with thousands of tests. Amid this, patient liability for medical treatment increased. The situation merely worsened the current affordability crisis.
Fortunately, health insurance coverage can improve access and resolve problems with care affordability. Patients who qualify for public health insurance can have the government pay for their expenses. Comparatively, others can opt for private health insurance. But sometimes, health insurance can increase medical bills instead of reducing them. Therefore, it is vital to have all your information before choosing a provider. Remember that each state has individual regulations for insurance. So, for example, NC health insurance quotes will differ from Arkansas quotes.
Long story short, things can get confusing when navigating healthcare. And if you are experiencing a medical emergency, sometimes you might not even have time to arrange money for treatment. But, do not worry. We have a list of some helpful tips you can follow to save money during a financial emergency.
Things to do before a medical emergency
1. Look for the best insurance plan: You never know when a health crisis can occur. Therefore it is wise to invest in an insurance plan early on. There are several health plans with specific caveats. Choose an insurance plan that works best for your family or yourself if you are single. Do not make the mistake of opting for old programs before looking at other options. While familiar schemes can reduce hassle, new circumstances can change the insurance policy. Begin by estimating the average number of doctor visits for your family. Then, compare how much you pay per annum for these services. Try to make an educated guess about how many health issues you might face in the future. After going through these steps, choose the correct fit for you.
2. Start an emergency fund: Prepare yourself for a rainy day by saving money in an emergency fund. You can use these funds to help you pay up for urgent and unexpected medical expenses. You can open a health savings account (HSA) to save the money you want to keep aside for an emergency. Not only will an HSA help you with future medical bills, but the money you deposit into your account is also non-taxable. However, HSAs are only applicable for high deductible plans.
Things to do after the medical emergency
3. Inspect your bills: According to a study, four out of five medical bills contain calculation errors. These errors can increase medical charges, and patients have to pay for these mistakes. For example, an incorrect billing code can indicate that a patient got X-rays of both legs instead of one. Healthcare service providers may even accidentally bill twice for the same service. While a significant portion of these mistakes is the result of medical fraud, most are honest mistakes. So, always request itemized bills to scrutinize each service on the invoice. This way, you’ll prevent yourself from paying extra. Also, review your insurance coverage to deduce if your insurance plan will cover any service.
4. Negotiate your medical bill: Patients can get a discount by negotiating terms with their providers. Some hospitals offer discounts when patients pay in cash because they do not have to file insurance claims. Sometimes, patients hire local advocates to help them with their insurance plans. These professionals can provide you information about care options and help you resolve billing issues with your insurance company. Remember that negotiation is not a short process. You may have to hear several refusals before winning your claim.
5. Create a payment plan: Paying a medical bill in full and on time may seem challenging for some. Fortunately, your hospital can help you with this issue. Sign up for a payment plan with your provider. You can pay in installments on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. So, you will not have to worry about your credit rating.
Things to do to save money on prescription drugs
6. Opt for generic brands: While your doctor might have prescribed a name-brand drug, generic drugs work just as well. The only difference between these drugs is that they cost significantly less. You can also reduce expenses by getting drugs by mail or ordering from big-box retailers. Large retail stores often offer significant discounts on generic drugs, so try to buy your medicines from Walmart or Costco. Some vendors also offer prescription discount cards to loyal customers.
Medical bill costs in America are the highest in the world. Despite this, patients often get less for what they pay. The endemic mismanagement and high costs have increased medical debt to alarming rates. These issues have made navigating healthcare highly tricky for the layperson. However, doing nothing is not a viable option. This article went over a few tips to help people save money for, during, and after a medical emergency. These include buying the right insurance plan, setting up an emergency health fund, checking the bill for errors, opting for generic drugs, etc. Patients have to remain vigilant to keep premiums and deductibles in check. They should ask their healthcare providers and insurance companies about their concerns.