Approximately one out of every four Americans avoid seeking medical care because of high out-of-pocket medical costs. According to a Bankrate survey of 2,500 U.S. adults, up to 22% of Americans in 2019 said they steered clear of some sort of medical care because it was too expensive.
Americans aren’t imagining these expenses, either. Between February 2019 and February 2020, the cost of medical care services in the U.S. has increased by 5.3% on average. And that was even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are ways you can make your medical bills more manageable so you can get the medical treatment you need before you put yourself in danger. Here are a few ways you can save on your personal health care.
Know where to go for certain medical problems
Not every medical problem warrants a visit to the doctor. For instance, a mild ankle sprain can be treated at home and may heal within 10 days. But if that sprain has extreme swelling and can’t bear any weight, it’s time to seek medical attention.
Make sure to do your research online before assuming a medical issue requires a visit to a certain place. If you assume you need to go to urgent care, when the best place to be in the emergency room, you could end up paying medical bills for two medical visits instead of one.
You should visit your primary care physician rather than an urgent care clinic if you need to see a medical professional who can help you manage your health for the long term or if the medical treatment you need is minor. You should seek an urgent care center if you need one-time medical treatment outside of your PCP’s regular office hours. You should visit the emergency room if you need treatment fast or need advanced treatments like surgery that are only available in a hospital setting.
Negotiate your medical bill
If you’ve received a massive medical bill with a scar number attached to it, it may be worth negotiating your debts down, especially if it’s too high for you to afford. You can negotiate the price of your medical treatment with your insurance company and your medical provider. For instance, if you know you can pay 50% of your bill, consider asking if the hospital will write off the other 50% if you pay the other 50% upfront.
Of course, the hospital might say no. But that just means you can come back with a less aggressive offer and may be able to shave a percentage off your bill. If you still can’t pay what the hospital is asking for, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan with them to make paying them back more manageable.
Make sure you’re using more than just your medical insurance
Every year, about 6 million reported car accidents and 10 million unreported car accidents take place on U.S. roads. In just the state of Missouri, over 1,000 serious injuries were caused by motor vehicle accidents in just two years. If you’re involved in a car accident and suffer a serious injury that leaves you saddled with an expensive medical bill, make sure that you’re not just using your health insurance but also your car insurance.
If another driver is responsible for the car accident that caused your injuries, you can file a personal injury claim against that driver. Should the other driver be found responsible for the accident, their insurance company will be responsible for paying your medical bills. That said, make sure to take advantage of everything your insurance plans have to offer. After all, you’re paying for them.
It’s important to take care of your body and to seek medical treatment when you need it. But it’s just as important for you to keep your head above water when it comes to debt. By following the tips above, you can better navigate your medical expenses so you can focus more on healing.