8 practical ways seniors can cut medical costs
Opening up a hospital bill can be as terrifying as the procedure it preceded. Making matters worse, seniors are often on limited income that affects how much they can pay. However using a combination of common sense, detective work and available resources, there are ways to pay less for that medical bill. Here are eight practical ways seniors can cut medical costs.
1. Examine your bill
Medical error doesn’t just happen in the hospital, it sometimes occurs in the billing office as well. Whether it’s being charged twice for the same procedure or being charged for tests that was never done, mistakes happen. Unfortunately just like in a restaurant, it’s the person’s responsibility to make sure the bill is right when received. You also have the right to ask the healthcare billing office and your insurance company to audit your bill to make sure all the charges are correct.
Everyone loves paying less for more. Under-the-radar savings can appear in any form from senior discounts to saving a percentage if you pay the bill over the phone. Doesn’t hurt to ask your hospital if they offer a discount. Some insurance companies have contracts with certain medical providers to offer a discount as well.
3. Research costs
The Affordable Care Act has forced the medical community to drive the straight and narrow onto transparency lane. Third-party organizations such as HealthGrades.com and The Leapfrog Group include estimates for medical costs online. With this tool, you no longer have to be completely clueless about your incoming medical cost. There are even sites available where you can compare the cost of the same procedure over various hospitals. While it’s not yet a nationwide philosophy, more hospitals are becoming transparent about the exact cost of various procedures.
4. Call for back up
Just like State Farm, like a good neighbor, financial experts are there to help. Organizations like Disputebills.com in Chicago can help prevent medical debt. Scan, mail or fax your unpaid medical bills and a dedicated advocate reviews it for errors and other money saving opportunities. They can successfully negotiate a way to save money and reduce debt.
5. Use common sense
Sometimes you are your own worst enemy. Medical bills are high enough without making the mistake of tiptoeing out of your in-network service providers. Having an Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) or Preferred Provider Option (PPO) allows you to use the doctors and hospitals within your network with the health insurance company paying the brunt of the cost. However mistakenly going out-of-network can cause your bill to be three to four times higher because you pay the larger portion instead of the insurance company.
6. Charity care
Hospital financial counselors are available to assist patients with financial assistance programs. Patients who are unable to pay their bill because they fall under the poverty line may be eligible for programs designed to assist, including Medicaid, Medicare and social security insurance disability. The insurance company pays anywhere from 10 percent to 100 percent of the bill depending on the program’s income requirement.
7. Video chat an expert
In today’s fast-pace technological world, you can see a physician or nurse without leaving your house. Telemedicine seeks to improve a patient’s health by permitting two-way, real time interactive communication between the patient, and the physician or nurse practitioner. Originally created as a way to treat patients who were located in remote places, this relatively new concept is starting to gain traction nationwide. Telemedicine can be used for ailments such as asthma, colds, sore throats, flus, infections, rashes, skin inflammations, and sports injuries.
8. Visit your local Walgreens or CVS
Before, these clinics focused primarily on prescription drugs. But now, they offer physicals, vaccinations and treatment for a range of common illnesses and injuries, including ear infections, strep throat, migraines, pink eye, rashes, bronchitis and upper respiratory infections, sprains, strains and more. Patients pay a flat out-of-pocket fee. Walgreens will also be expanding care to children as young as six months of age by Jan. 1, 2017. Walk-ins and same-day appointment scheduling are available.