To call the U.S. healthcare system a frustrating quagmire would be an understatement. Although the ACA has provided millions of us with easier access to insurance, countless individuals are still drowning in medical debt, especially people suffering from long-term and chronic conditions.
Given how much a single medical bill stands to impact your personal finances, making healthcare comfortably affordable should be among all Americans’ foremost priorities. So, if manageable healthcare costs are what you seek, put the following pointers to good use.
Get Some Level of Insurance Coverage
Assuming that insurance coverage is a magical shield against exorbitant medical costs is folly. However, if you live in the U.S., having some level of coverage is vastly preferable to having none. While insurance companies were free to discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions and engage in other unfair practices prior to 2013, the passage of the Affordable Care Act has made health insurance considerably more accessible to millions of Americans. To benefit from this, pay a visit to the Healthcare Marketplace at Healthcare.gov and provide some basic information. Once your info has been entered, you’ll be greeted with a wide range of plans that comfortably fall into your range of affordability. Additionally, depending on your current income level, some of these plans may even be free.
Ask About Financial Aid Programs
It’s entirely possible that hospitals and other medical facilities from which you’ve sought treatment for years offer financial aid programs that you’ve never been told about. Although a sizable number of facilities offer these programs, the onus is often placed on patients to enquire about them. In other words, if you don’t take it upon yourself to ask questions, no one at your preferred medical facilities is liable to bring the existence of financial aid to your attention.
The exact criteria for qualification vary from place to place, but income level and insurance coverage (or lack thereof) are often taken into careful consideration. If you’re approved for financial assistance, the aid you receive may range from substantially discounted bills to complete debt forgiveness. Since these programs are often retroactive, coverage can be applied to bills you received prior to approval. Furthermore, you may even be eligible to receive full or partial refunds on bills you’ve already paid. People with serious and/or long-term medical conditions, like ileostomy care, stand to save a tremendous sum by seeking treatment at facilities with robust financial aid programs in place.
Apply for Medicaid
Medicaid is a state and federal funded health insurance program that provides coverage to millions of low-income Americans. Because of the unfair stigma placed on people who receive federal assistance in this country, some individuals are hesitant to apply for Medicaid despite how much it stands to help them. So, if being viewed as a so-called “taker” is the only thing preventing you from applying for Medicaid coverage, just remind yourself that this program is in place to help people in your situation and that there is absolutely no shame in accepting assistance.
Medicaid qualifications vary (sometimes wildly) from state to state, so if you’re unclear on your state’s criteria, visit its Medicaid website to get the lowdown. Should you require assistance applying, simply pay a visit to your local welfare office. Many states allow residents to apply online, so in most cases, submitting an application should prove neither strenuous nor time-consuming.
Haggle with Healthcare Providers
If you contact a medical facility and request that they explain every item listed on a bill, you may discover that they’re surprisingly open to negotiating. This is due in no small part to the fact that 80% of medical bills contain errors. You may also want to consider requesting a prompt payment discount – i.e., paying a bill immediately in exchange for an enormous discount. Additionally, informing providers that you’re uninsured, underinsured or otherwise unable to afford a bill may net you an immediate discount.
Few things can ratchet up the average American’s stress levels like an unreasonably high medical bill. Many healthcare providers won’t hesitate to stick patients with every conceivable charge, which can result in routine checkups costing a small fortune. Since most of us have grown up with a for-profit healthcare system, we’ve simply come to accept it as a fact of life. However, rather than resign yourself to exorbitant healthcare costs, you should take active measures to make said costs more manageable. With the help of the pointers discussed above, you may discover that affordable healthcare isn’t as out-of-reach as you initially thought.