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More and more people in the United States are choosing to forgo medical care for financial reasons.
The proportion of Americans who say they or a family member delayed medical treatment because of cost increased from 26% in 2021 to 38% in 2022, according to a Gallup study opinion poll published on January 17th.
That percentage is the highest since the polling firm began measuring it in 2001, when 19% of respondents said they had postponed healthcare for financial reasons. The latest result also marks the largest year-over-year increase in the survey’s history.
A large proportion of treatment delays over the last year were due to health problems, which respondents described as either somewhat or very serious.
“People are stretching out on medication and avoiding doctor visits for diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, which can cause problems to spiral out of control,” said Carolyn McClanahan, a board-certified financial planner and physician, the founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla .
If you’re struggling with healthcare costs, these steps can help, experts say.
1. Start with in-network providers
One way to save on medical expenses is to make sure your doctors are on-network for your insurance plan, “since off-network care can be very expensive,” said McClanahan, a member of Financial Advisor Council of CNBC. The same applies to hospitals, laboratories and other medical providers that you are likely to use.
You can check with both your insurer and the provider you want to see if they are on the network. Sometimes doctors leave a network, McClanahan said, so be sure to double-check if you haven’t seen a provider in a while.
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“Always start with your GP, which is where your co-payment or deductible is lowest,” said Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation.
2. Get the most out of your franchise
Your deductible is the amount you must pay for your healthcare before your coverage begins. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average single worker had a deductible of around $1,760 in 2022.
When you reach your deductible, you may want to seek other treatments or treatments that same year to reduce costs, McClanahan said.
Certain preventive measures, including check-ups and vaccinations, are often covered without regard to your deductible.
Those who exceed their out-of-pocket maximum for the year — the maximum amount you’ll have to pay for covered services in a plan year — would particularly benefit if you seek other needed treatments during the year. They should be fully covered after that point, McClanahan said.
“For example, do you have skin lesions that need to be checked? Do you have joint or muscle problems that could benefit from physical therapy? Is it time for your colonoscopy?” she said.
If you work to stay current about your health and any treatments you need, and exercise a little skepticism about what you’re told by medical professionals, you can also help keep costs down, McClanahan said.
“Be a committed patient to make sure you get the appropriate care,” she said. “If a doctor wants to order a test or perform a procedure, ask, ‘How will this test change what you do for me? If it doesn’t change anything, does it really need to be done?’”
“Unnecessary testing increases costs and puts the patient at risk of false positive tests, which means the doctor has to do more testing to prove something isn’t wrong,” McClanahan said.
Often, she said, there are alternatives to potentially costly drugs, tests and procedures. For example, in some cases, high cholesterol or high blood pressure can be reversed with diet and lifestyle changes, she said.
Finally, she advises patients to keep comprehensive medical histories, including any procedures or tests they have had, to reduce unnecessary and potentially expensive redundant ones.
If you’re anticipating hospitalization, check the website for information on financial assistance programs, Donovan said. “You can qualify for a discounted or even free stay,” she said.
In some cases, you can set up a payment plan with a hospital or provider.
There are also a number of charities that help people with their healthcare costs, Donovan said. For example Copays.orgyou can apply for funds to use for co-payments, premiums, deductibles, and over-the-counter medications.
Some older Americans may be eligible for assistance with their monthly premiums under the Medicare savings programsaid Donovan. “If you qualify, your premiums, deductibles and co-payments will be covered, which would be a huge financial relief for anyone,” she said.
Additionally, those enrolled in Medicare Part D, which covers prescriptions, should see if they qualify extra help. This program can reduce the cost of your medication, Donovan added.
But the last thing you want to do is take care of yourself, she said.
“Following a treatment plan promptly can delay the debilitating effects of a condition like muscle degeneration,” Donovan said. “In fact, early detection of conditions like cancer can save your life.”
https://www.cnbc.com/2023/01/20/americans-put-off-health-care-because-of-cost-how-you-can-save.html Americans are postponing health care for cost reasons – how to save