Now that the 2016 US Presidential elections are over, all eyes are on President-elect Trump to see if he will follow through on his campaign promise to do away with Obamacare. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done to bring down the out of control uncovered medical expenses that are causing significant harm to our financial well-being.
Surveys Show Americans are Suffering from Obamacare
Gallup, Commonwealth Fund and Kaiser Family Foundation surveys all found that roughly one-third of Americans postpone critical medical care, such as prescriptions and diagnostic tests because they cannot afford it.
The Kaiser Family Foundation study, conducted in January, 2016, found that many Americans, when faced with uncovered medical expenses are skipping meals or limiting their purchase of groceries. Others find themselves unable to make their mortgage or rent payments. Of the total respondents, 31% said they had uncovered medical costs of $5,000, and 13% said their uncovered medical expenses exceeded $10,000. One in five reported they were not able to pay these bills. Among those having difficulty paying their medical bills, 11% had to declare bankruptcy.
Most fingers point to the Affordable Care Act, which resulted in increased monthly premiums, higher out-of-pocket costs and more restricted access to healthcare providers. The typical monthly insurance premium is $500 with $3000-6,000 in deductibles, meaning that you could be looking at $12,000 a year coming out of your pocket, before your health insurance benefits kick in. A Guardian study in 2016 found that 60% of Americans were unable to pay even a $3,000 medical bill.
And the future is not looking much better, unless there are some drastic changes at the federal level. According to the PwC Health Research Institute, 2017 healthcare costs will continue to climb, by as much as 6.5%.
One of the reasons that healthcare costs have managed to rise like a rocket is that consumers have no idea what hospitals and doctors are charging to the insurance companies. We rarely read the fine print of our insurance premiums, setting ourselves up for the potential of being stuck with a $25,000 bill because the emergency room visit was out of network, or the specialist that was ordered was not included in the plan.
And to this point, we are speaking only about basic medical care. What about all of those uncovered medical procedures such as reconstructive surgery, infertility treatments, laser vision correction, hip replacement surgery, etc.? These are procedures that may not be life-threatening, but they are critical to quality of life, ability to be employed, and a general sense of well-being. However, since the insurance industry defines these procedures as “elective” they will not cover the costs, or cover only a very small fraction.
We Have Options
The situation is not completely out of our control. Here are 7 things we can do to deal with uncovered medical expenses to protect our physical and financial health.
- Confirm that all procedures ordered by your doctor are necessary.
- Ask your doctor to prescribe generic and/or over-the-counter prescriptions. Take advantage of generic pharmacies such as Walmart and Target. FDA has published a booklet—Orange Book that will tell you if the drug being prescribed has a generic version.
- When possible, go to an urgent care facility rather than the emergency room. It is cheaper and usually less crowded.
- Go over your healthcare bill with a magnifying glass. Look for any errors and report them immediately. You could find yourself billed the full price of a certain procedure only because the doctor’s office failed to first obtain approval from your insurance carrier.
- Don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor or the hospital. Explore ways that you can bring the costs down, such as paying in cash. Shop around to find the more affordable facility.
- Control the debt before it grows. It could be tempting to use your credit card, but that will only increase your consumer debt which can negatively impact your credit rating. Speak with your healthcare provider or facility and set up a payment plan as soon as possible.
- Apply for a medical financing loan from a marketplace lender, such as Peerform. A peer-to-peer medical loan can help you cover those uncovered medical expenses and save you from bankruptcy.