Nothing like opening the mail and seeing an unexpected big dollar invoice to cause a panic attack. It’s every patient’s nightmare – getting an eye-popping bill after a hospital stay or medical procedure that blow ups your savings or credit card.
Fortunately, there are four steps you can take beforehand to keep a lid on costs – and three other steps afterward, too:
- Avoid “Out of Network” Costs. Learn which surgeons, hospitals, and other medical care facilities are covered by your health insurance; how much you must pay; and whether your insurer must OK it first. An in-network specialist who costs less may be available. Some providers, if out of network, may give you a cash discount for your services. But best to check before the visit.
- Is This X-Ray or CT Scan Necessary? If you recently had an X-ray or scan, a new one may not be needed. Ask the question and, if necessary, help the specialist get it from the other doctor.
- What’s Free or Less? Some medical costs or visits may be covered at 100%. Or, there might be a lower-cost way of accessing prescription medicines. Find out first.
- Consult a Calendar. If a costly hospital stay or procedure can wait until near the end of the year, then you may want to wait. By year end, you might reach your policy’s deductible, thereby reducing the amount you owe for your procedure or medical visit.
- Check for Errors. Shockingly (not), errors can occur when a bill is based on a long list of codes entered by a medical provider. If an itemized list isn’t included, request one. Too often, patients pay for items they didn’t get.
- Wasn’t This Covered? One (or more or all) items in a bill could be for something you think your health policy covers. Contact your insurer for an explanation. It’s possible a coding error occurred (yes, it happens) and you shouldn’t have to pay.
- Complete Pricey Prescription Paperwork. The full cost of your drugs can be charged to you because the doctor didn’t send in required forms. Or the insurer requests a prior authorization from the doctor or that you try a less-costly drug first. Find out before filling the prescription.
Bottomline, know the details of what’s covered and what’s not when you sign on for your health insurance. You’ll save time and money…and (hopefully) prevent a “sticker shock” panic attack or two.
Too often plan details are as a clear as mud and you’re forced to go through a phone maze or sit on endless hold (someone will address your questions in 2 hours) just to get someone to answer your questions.