Americans spend more than $3 trillion a year on health care, which makes up 20% of our economy. In contrast, most countries' health care represents closer to 10% of their GDP. This makes rapid reform impossible without a shock to our economy and job market, yet the system as it stands now is broken. Staggering bills are bankrupting families, and consumers feel they have no choice but to shut up and pay up.
In her new book An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal addresses her disgust with how the "care" aspect has all but vanished in the healthcare industry and advises how consumer behavior and active involvement can help mitigate costs and push the system towards reform.
- Ask Questions Upfront. Find out how much care will cost beforehand. Ask why tests are being ordered, how the results will be used, and what other steps may play a part in your care that you may not be aware of. Also ask if other doctors or departments will be involved. It is possible that ancillary specialists could be out of your network. While informed consent is required of doctors and hospitals in these types of situations, it is better to have clarity upfront than have to clean up a mess later.
- Vet Your Hospital and Dispute Outrageous Bills. Check out your hospital's safety record through the non-profit Leapfrog Group, and again, ask as many questions as possible. Find out the names and positions of everybody treating you--because they may be billing you separately. Understand the charges for every procedure, and also ask what it is costing to occupy the space you are sitting in for the time you are there. Even if you are not kept overnight and you don't even lie on a bed, you may be charged a fee for just occupying space in the ER.
- Understand Your Insurance Coverage. This isn't an easy task these days. But know your premium, deductible, co-payment, out-of-pocket maximum, in- and -out-of-network costs, and any kind of caps. If you have a medical condition and have a trusted doctor, you may want to ask which insurance plans they accept and work backward from there when you're choosing a plan.
Be Smart About Prescriptions. In some cases, the cash price may be less than your co-pay. Check out the price of any prescribed drugs at GoodRx.com. You can also check into prescription prices in other countries--they are often considerably less expensive. You can bring your prescriptions with you when you travel or there are overseas mail order pharmacies that may offer drugs at a lower cost.
Source: Hadassah Magazine