Topics:Buying health insurance
Guest Post by AJ Cohen
Despite a myriad of efforts to make health care more affordable, costs continue to rise. Medical costs have outpaced income by 14 percent over the last 10 years, and 2020 is predicted to see the largest jump in costs yet — up 5 percent from 2019, which was already up 3.6 percent from 2018.
Finding affordable care is an issue that hits at the heart of most Americans. Few families can absorb even a modest health care crisis when the average cost of a three-day hospital stay is $30,000 and the average cost of an ER visit is anywhere from $3,000 (with insurance) to upwards of $20,000 (without insurance). And if you need to get to the hospital via ambulance? Plan on at least another $1,000. Cost has become such a prohibitive factor in U.S. health care; many patients prolong needed medical care or forego it altogether to try and spare themselves the expense.
As the saying goes, "When you have your health, you have everything," which is why everyone should have the benefit of being able to afford quality medical care when they need it and as long as they need it. Government officials and health care experts have long tried to devise a plan that makes sense for everyone, but until they do, I’ve compiled a few tips to help you stay on top of your health in 2020 without finding yourself in the poorhouse.
First, take stock of what you’re paying now for health care and whether you can afford it.
Insurance premiums and copays add up quickly. You may not find out if you’re carrying enough insurance, or the right kind of insurance, until it’s too late. No one wants to find themselves in the middle of a medical emergency only to discover they don’t have the necessary insurance to cover at least part of the costs.
This is the time of year for open enrollment on most health care plans, and a good time to assess your needs in 2020. Will the size of your family be changing? Do you anticipate new medical needs for the coming year? Will there be out-of-pocket expenses, or expenses deemed not medically necessary, that you’ll need to account for over the next 12 months? Are you taking advantage of a Health Savings Account? Does your deductible seem reasonable?
These are questions you should consider when determining what type of medical insurance you have and whether it will fit your needs in the coming year. Now is the time to make changes without penalty. Be realistic with how much you can afford each month and make sure it will deliver value when you’ll need it most.
Next, shop around and take advantage of freebies.
Surprisingly, most Americans don’t look for a bargain when they seek out medical care. A survey of nearly 3,000 individuals revealed only 13 percent of respondents who had to pay out-of-pocket for recent medical treatment had sought information about expected spending before receiving that care, and only 3 percent had compared costs across providers before receiving care.
Reasons vary, but there is a long held belief that health care that costs less isn’t as valuable or effective as health care that costs more. This couldn’t be further from the truth. For some procedures, medical clinics are a far better bargain that in-hospital treatment, for example. Not to mention one doctor or hospital may charge significantly more for a service than another. It’s worth the time to ask around and compare your best deals. The government has even made it easier for all of us, requiring hospitals to publish the costs for common procedures.
Don’t forget to take advantage of free and low cost services as well. Preventive care is free with many medical plans and for a healthy individual, this can cover the bulk of your medical needs in a given year. Ask for generic versions of prescriptions and shop your services around to various pharmacies. Many stores offer incentives on groceries and other items to have your prescriptions filled with them. Finally, don’t overlook free or low cost services for things like flu shots, wellness exams and sports physicals. There is no reason you need to see a primary care physician for some of these routine treatments.
Finally, make a plan to pay your medical debts off now.
Sounds easy on paper right? Medical debt can be scary, because the numbers can be large. There’s also the psychological issue at play — you feel better, so why do you need to go back and spend money on something that is fixed and done?
Medical debt can quickly get out of hand however, and hospitals, clinics and doctors offices are feeling the pain of not being paid. For this reason we are seeing larger numbers of medical providers suing their patients for payment. Once a judgment has been rendered against you, you have little choice but to pay the bill in full — often with zero negotiating power.
There is no need to let it get to that point. As tempting as it is to ignore medical bills, take the time to open those letters and understand what you owe and why. If something seems wrong to you or overly inflated, call your provider and discuss it. Most are willing to negotiate if you offer to pay in cash or pay the bill in full.
If the costs are more than you can pay right now, consider a medical loan. Unlike credit cards, medical loans can have a far lower interest rate and more flexible repayment terms. At BetterMed, for example, we offer loans as high as $350,000 with a fixed 3.9 percent APR, and we approve 97 percent of our borrowers without a credit check.
health care costs can feel insurmountable as they continue to rise, unabated. While no one can predict with any certainty what kind of medical needs you or your family may have in the coming year, there are ways to prepare now so those events don’t come with the added burden of how to pay for it.
AJ Cohen founded BetterMed in 2011 and has served as Managing Partner since its inception. BetterMed is a global health financing company that provides holistic medical loans for patients facing critical, chronic or cosmetic health care costs. AJ started BetterMed with a mission to meet the needs of today’s borrowers, and has defined the company’s vision and strategy while leading the company through rapid growth. Today, BetterMed offers the lowest interest rate and most compassionate borrowing terms of any medical loan provider on the market, enabling borrowers to pay anywhere from four to six times less than they would with any other medical loan. AJ received a Doctor of Law at New York University, as well as a Masters in Finance from London Business School.
August 17th, 2022
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