Regardless of where you sit on political beliefs, the state of our healthcare in this country is not in good shape. The cost of everything from prescriptions to any type of hospital or surgery visit, or even just bloodwork, is outrageously expensive.
I’ve seen it from both sides; for many years, I had no insurance except for the “only in an emergency will this kick in” policy, and now, I find myself spending heavily on health concerns even though I do have very good insurance now. What gives?
I want to share with you what I’ve learned over the years dealing with the finance side of healthcare. Brace yourself.
1. Your emergency savings funds should account for health issues.
We’ve talked about savings goals a bit, and I want to remind you that you should account for a bit of funds in your emergency savings fund. How much? It depends. If you don’t have insurance, you should allocate more than if you do have insurance, but I encourage you to incorporate unexpected healthcare costs/deductibles in how you are deciding how to allocate emergency savings.
2. If you have insurance, educate yourself on it. If you don’t have insurance, educate yourself on your options.
If you have insurance, this is your prompt to sit down and review it to make sure that you know what is covered, and what is not. Some things to look for:
- What is automatically covered with little or no deductible (for example, dental cleaning or eye exams). Are you taking advantage?
- What facilities and practitioners are “in network?” It’s good to know in the case of an emergency where you should go.
- Is there a difference in coverage of prescription drugs vs generics?
- Do you need to see a primary care physician for referrals to specific services, like chiropractor?
- Is there anything you spend money on now that is covered by insurance?
If you don’t have insurance, you should at least price out some options for basic coverage – don’t just assume that it’s too expensive. But also I encourage you to learn more about any local affordable healthcare options; for example, here in Portland we have a company called Zoomcare that offers everything from dental to the basics (think: colds that don’t go away, cuts that seem to be getting infected, etc.) in an affordable fashion.
3. Ask for discounts or cheaper options before accepting any medical bill.
If you have to pay for anything – insurance or not – before you accept any treatment, ask about your options! If it’s a large bill, ask for a discount for paying in full. For drugs, ask if generics are available. You can also shop around; Costco’s pharmacy is open to non-members, and Wal-Mart/Target and even grocery stores are super competitive on offerings. Talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner about your money situation and ask them to help you find the best option – or if what they are suggesting is even necessary.
If your insurance refuses coverage, contest it! Ask for clarification. Check your bills for errors. Be in charge of your healthcare – I know if you are not well, this can feel like a challenge, but I know you can rise to the challenge.
4. Prevention is usually more cost effective than the cure.
In general, I’ve found that working on prevention is more cost effective than the cure. For example, if you have high blood pressure, going on walks + starting a meditation habit is all pretty inexpensive and better than taking pills. (If you need meditation, though, please do that.) You might find that meeting with a nutritionist or taking a food allergy test can help clear up other health problems by changing what you eat.
I don’t mean to sound laissez-faire about serious health concerns; I just want you to think about how you could improve your overall health by looking at root causes. I know so many people who have chronic health issues but their life is 100% better because they took up a yoga practice, or started drinking tea every night. It sounds silly, but sometimes the simplest ideas are the easiest.