Health care companies in the US are commercial enterprises who want to make money off their patients. Regular or hidden charges can build up or take you by surprise leaving you feeling ripped off and penniless. So, it’s really a good idea to be an “intelligent customer” to ensure you are getting your money’s worth.
Here are some tips about avoiding larger charges that I have learnt.
- Try to get an estimate for the services you are going to use. There are two reasons for this: a) when your bill comes along and you think you have been overcharged you have a basis to question it, b) you can shop around to other places that will provide the same thing. Sometimes it’s very difficult to get an estimate from administrative staff so go through your own general practice if you can, they tend to be more helpful/competent.
- Stay within the network. Treatment outside of your insurance network will be much more expensive, obscenely so, ensure that whatever you are going to have done stays in-house.
- Always ask the price, whether you have got an estimate or not, prior to your treatment. I have been caught out thinking the service should be free, as in preventative, when days later I receive a huge bill.
- If something looks odd on your invoice then question it with the company. By doing this I found out that some companies don’t charge for a service that is less than $5.
- Use telehealth services. Often seeing the doctor face to face can mean a deductible or other charge. Consider using the companies telehealth service, that means to speak to a nurse on the phone or online. Often you can upload pictures so nurses can see the ailment to be checked out. Telehealth services might be free, check with your provider.
- When going to a practice observe how many people come to attend to you. It doesn’t take 5 nurses to take your blood pressure. I have always questioned why they provide multiple staff when it’s possible for one person to perform that simple task.
- Do you really need to see your doctor? Often a nurse can provide the service you need, this saves the doctor time and lowers your cost, probably.
- Question the price of medications. Buying drugs at your local pharmacy with GoodRx coupons could be cheaper than charging it to your insurance. This has been the case with all my medications. Often independent pharmacies are already linked to the GoodRx system.
I hope you find these tips useful. They may not be relevant for all occasions but when doing business with a company that is providing a service you want to make sure you are getting a fair price for a high standard. Don’t be shy. Question everything. You are the customer.