Americans have access to quality health care and as well as the latest advances in the medical field. But it can come at a price — sometimes a very steep (and unexpected) price.
According to Consumer Reports, health care in the United States, person for person, costs approximately twice as much as it does in the rest of the developed world.
Even if you have health insurance, you’re not in the clear. More often than not, after your insurance company has paid their share, there’s a balance remaining for which you’re personally liable – and this causes severe financial trouble for many people.
A Harvard University study found medical expenses to be the largest cause of all personal bankruptcies. And the majority of filers had some form of health insurance.
So how can you prevent medical bills from destroying your finances?
Do Your Due Diligence – Then Do Some More
Over 1/3 of Americans say they’ve been hit with “jaw-dropping” medical bills that they never knew were coming.
Don’t let this happen to you.
The next time you need to have a medical procedure, get prepared ahead of time by getting a list of every single staff member who will be treating you (e.g. surgeon, anesthesiologist, doctor, etc.) and obtain written confirmation for each one that states they take your insurance.
And if you do receive a surprise medical bill? Be prepared to fight it.
Contact those who can provide the help you need, including the Attorney General’s office in your state and your state’s Office of Insurance Regulation.
Expecting a Baby? Don’t Expect to Know Your Childbirth Costs
Most of us are aware that giving birth costs a lot. But it’s nearly impossible for consumers to find out just how much “a lot” is.
With childbirth being the number one reason for hospital admissions in the United States, and with the majority of births being uncomplicated, one would think statistics on how much an average birth costs would be readily available – but they’re not.
Even when you go above and beyond by spending several hours trying to obtain this information, you can’t.
Sadly, this prevents those who want to plan ahead financially in order to avoid debt related to childbirth costs from doing so.
How To Protect Yourself
Here are some final points to help you protect yourself from acquiring large debt related to medical expenses:
1) Preventing Surprise Medical Bills
- Do your part. Any time you’re going to have a medical procedure, be sure to obtain a complete list of every single professional who will be seeing you.
- Get written confirmation of your insurance coverage. You’ll want to confirm insurance coverage for everything – the facility, the specific treatments, as well as each individual medical professional who will be providing treatment.
- Get estimates. While this may be more difficult to do with certain procedures (such as child birth), it’s wise to obtain an estimate of expected costs before getting treatment when you can. This will enable you to save for costs you anticipate having to pay out of pocket.
2) Handling Unexpectedly Large Medical Bills
- Try to arrange for a payment plan. Ideally, you’ll want one that allows you to make monthly payments with no interest. Obtain a copy of the agreement made in writing for your personal records.
- Negotiate the costs if you can afford to pay some of the bill, but not all. Again, you’ll want to get the terms of the settlement in writing.
- Do what you can to avoid having your finances ruined by exorbitant medical bills. Contact those who have the knowledge and expertise to help you fight the bill, such as the Office of the Attorney General in your state.
Take preventative measures to stay healthy and, when you do need a medical procedure, follow these tips to help you avoid medical bills that could potentially destroy your finances.