As a recent article from NPR pointed out, medical bills still take a large bite of family’s finances, even with insurance. With high deductibles now becoming the norm as employers restructure coverage to manage costs and more people shop on the federally-run exchange, the up-front costs catch many consumers off guard. For example, nearly a quarter of those insured in the U.S. have a $2,000 deductible. That’s a staggering bill for many to pay before insurance coverage even kicks in considering nearly two-thirds of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, according to gobankingrates.com.
Part of the challenge is the fact that the true costs of medical services have been hidden, confusing, and frustratingly complicated for decades. Trying to find out what something costs before it was done was and still often is essentially impossible. If you have a more serious issue like open heart surgery could get ready for individual bills from the cardiologist, the surgeon, the lab, the anesthesiologist, a consulting doctor who helped read charts and more. All of this leads to a frustrating process for consumers and a process that still puts many Americans in bankruptcy no matter the glowing reports you may hear about Obamacare. This leads to a continued need for change.
For starters, easy-to-read billing and better financial counseling before a procedure would be a huge improvement. Additionally, hospitals and doctors need to continually provide transparency and pricing for their services. And finally, the competency and literacy of consumers must continue to increase. Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean you know how to use it. Don’t wait until you are sick to understand your plan and how it works, take ownership and prepare.