The health care industry is like a box of chocolates. With many unknowns and a system that forces the patient to act as the middle man, it can be challenging to navigate as a consumer. But remember--patients are the driving force of the health care system. While it may feel like you’re powerless or unheard, that is not the case. You have a voice. It’s time to become an educated and engaged consumer!
In 2018, the Physicians Foundation came out with a study that suggests doctors see an average of 20 patients a day. That’s a lot of information to keep straight. How can you ensure you make the most of your appointment? The answer is simple. Before your visit, type up a summary of your health history and current issues. Be sure to include pertinent information, such as a timeline of the problem and other symptoms. Send the letter to your doctor in advance and bring a copy to the appointment to make good use of everyone’s time. Proper communication between patients and medical professionals can lead to faster diagnoses and more efficient care.
Some doctors are compensated on a fee-for-service model, which incentivizes them to provide more services. However, more is not necessarily better. As a patient, you have the right to ask questions. Inquire why a lab is ordered and how it will help with your diagnosis or treatment. Ask if a referral or laboratory is in-network. Remember--accepting your insurance and being in-network are not the same thing. Don’t find out when it’s too late!
It’s equally important to request quotes or estimates when receiving planned care. For example, if you’re having non-emergency surgery, you should seek a quote from all parties. Beware: doctors, anesthesiologists, and the hospital itself may bill separately. While a quote isn’t a guarantee, it can help your argument if the bill comes back higher.
Be Your Own Advocate
Don’t be afraid to challenge a bill that appears incorrect. This process begins by asking your health care provider for an itemized invoice that breaks down each expense. Review the itemized charges and verify the services were rendered. You may catch that you were double billed for medicine or that you were charged for a private room even though you stayed in a shared room. Call your insurance company and health care provider once you find an error to let them know you’re disputing the charge and would like to file an inquiry.
There’s a new buzzword in the healthcare industry called “surprise billing,” which occurs when you receive care from an out-of-network provider that you did not choose. Using the example previously mentioned, you may have an elective surgery with an in-network doctor. Still, the anesthesiologist on duty is out-of-network, and you’re billed the list price. Use online pricing resources to determine if you’ve been charged an excessive amount for the services received. If so, try negotiating with your provider to charge the market or in-network rate.
Health care is an essential and constant factor in every financial plan. To be a proactive and engaged health care consumer, you must prepare for planned care, ask questions, and review every bill. Taking these steps may help reduce your cost, improve your care, and enhance your overall experience.
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