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Many people in the US are considering leaving health care for financial reasons.
The share of Americans who say they or a family member has delayed health care because of the cost rose to 38% in 2022 from 26% in 2021, according to the results of a Gallup poll released on Jan. 17.
This is the highest since the polling agency began testing it in 2001, when 19% of people said they would put off health care because of money. The latest results also show the largest year-on-year increase in the survey’s history.
A large part of the delay in treatment last year was due to health reasons which the interviewees described as probably the most difficult.
“People are over-medicating and avoiding going to the doctor because of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions, which can lead to these problems,” said Carolyn McClanahan, a financial planner and physician who is the founder of Life Planning Partners. in Jacksonville, Florida.
If you’re struggling with health care costs, doing so can help, experts say.
1. Start with in-network providers
One way to save on medical expenses is to make sure your doctors are in the network for your insurance plan, “as out-of-network care can be very expensive,” said McClanahan, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council. The same goes for hospitals, labs and other medical providers you expect to use.
You can check with your insurance company and the providers you want to see to see if they are online. Sometimes, doctors drop out of network, McClanahan said, so you want to check that again if you haven’t seen a provider in a while.
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“Always start with your primary care physician, where your co-pay or out-of-pocket costs are the lowest,” said Caitlin Donovan, spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation.
2. Continue to meet your expenses
Planning care by considering your deductible is another way to keep costs down, McClanahan said.
Prepaid health care costs. A single worker will have an income of $1,760 in 2022, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Once you reach your deductible, you may want to squeeze in other care or services within the same year to lower costs, McClanahan said.
Certain preventive care, including exams and vaccinations, are often covered regardless of your deductible.
Those who earn their out-of-year benefits — most of what you have to pay for covered services during the plan year — may benefit more by getting any additional coverage you need during the year. They should be fully explained later, McClanahan said.
“For example, do you have skin lesions that need to be checked? Do you have bone or muscle problems that could benefit from medical treatment? Is it time for your colonoscopy?” he said.
3. ‘Be the patient who is in a relationship’
Working to learn more about your health and any necessary treatment, and being less skeptical about what you’re being told by medical professionals, can also help keep costs down, McClanahan said.
“Have a patient relationship to make sure you get the right treatment,” he said. “If a doctor wants to order a test or perform a procedure, ask these questions: ‘How will this test change what you do for me? If it doesn’t change anything, does it really need to be done?’
“Unnecessary testing increases costs and puts the patient at risk of false positives, which means the doctor has to retest to make sure there’s nothing wrong,” McClanahan said.
In many cases, he said, there are alternatives to perhaps expensive drugs, tests and procedures. For example, in some cases, high cholesterol or high blood pressure can be reversed with diet and lifestyle changes, he said.
Finally, they advise patients to keep a complete record of their medical history, including any procedures or tests they’ve had, to minimize unnecessary and costly procedures.
4. Ask for help and money
If you’re expecting a hospital stay, check its website for more information on financial assistance programs, Donovan said. “You may qualify for less or no cost,” he said.
In some cases, you can set up a payment plan with the hospital or provider.
There are also several charities that help people with health care costs, Donovan said. For example, at Copays.org, you can register for copays, premiums, deductibles and over-the-counter drugs.
The National Patient Advocate Foundation has a financial directory where you can find local help for everything from dental care to end-of-life services.
Some older Americans may be eligible for help with their monthly premiums under the Medicare Savings Program, Donovan said. “If you qualify, your premiums, deductibles and co-pays will be covered, which will be a huge relief for everyone,” he said.
Additionally, those enrolled in Medicare Part D, which is covered by the rules, should check to see if they qualify for Extra Help. The program can reduce the costs associated with your medication, Donovan added.
But the last thing you want to do is stop taking care of yourself, she said.
“Starting treatment early can delay the debilitating effects of the condition, such as muscle wasting,” Donovan said. “In fact, early detection of things like cancer can save your life.”