For years people have complained about the rising cost of quality healthcare services in America. People with limited incomes have a challenging time paying for their treatment and rising medical bills. While some patients become healthy within a few days, chronically ill patients do not have this luxury.
Chronic illnesses require long-term treatment and care, and they are the primary causes of death and disability. These diseases limit the activities of patients, which may even affect their employment status. Living with a chronic disease is expensive and painful. People with chronic illnesses find it challenging to live fulfilling lives. Such disorders also expose people to the risk of medical debt.
But, how do chronic illnesses make life more expensive for patients? There are two fundamental reasons behind this:
1. Out of pocket costs:
Healthy people see the doctor only when they fall ill. Usually, people visit a medical professional every six months. However, chronically ill people cannot manage with two doctor’s visits per year. They have to monitor their health with diagnostic tests and manage symptoms. Sometimes, patients also have to recalibrate medications according to lifestyle changes. So, who pays for these visits? Usually, it is the patient who covers these costs. Most insurance plans require patients to cover the expenses of some part of their treatment. Patients may have to pay some portion of their medical costs even when their plan covers treatment. Consulting specialists can cost anything between fifty dollars or five hundred dollars, depending on the treatment program. Sometimes patients have a complex treatment plan spanning several stages. For example, the most successful treatment plan for mesothelioma combines radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy. According to mesotheliomahope.com, the costs for repeated visits may add up to thousands of dollars.
2. Losing a job:
People living with chronic diseases find it impossible to lead a fulfilling life. Most chronic illnesses make staying employed impossible. Consider patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. They often experience crippling pain. So, just a few minutes of typing can seem impossible for them. Since most office jobs require several hours of computer work, holding a steady job is difficult. Managing a chronic illness also requires a lot of time. Patients need regular infusions and consultant visits which may take several hours, usually on weekdays. So, they lose their livelihoods by taking too many days off from work. Losing a job can also affect the insurance of the patient. Most Americans acquire health insurance through their employers. Therefore, if they lose their job, they will also no longer have insurance. And once an employee loses their income, they have to pay ten times more for treatment.
How can we manage these costs for chronically ill patients?
While going into medical debt seems inevitable for chronically ill patients, it is not always the case. Patients can take some steps to reduce and effectively manage treatment costs.
- Pick a low deductible plan: The first step is to pick an insurance program that works for you. Most plans have thousands of dollars of hidden out-of-pocket costs. Hence, always do your research and focus on low deductible health plans. However, these plans usually have higher premiums, so keep that in mind. But remember that the lower the deductible, the better the insurance plan.
- Check for errors: According to some reports, 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors. These errors can cost patients thousands of dollars. Therefore, it is necessary to go through medical bills and scan them for errors. Look for services you did not receive, duplicate services, or services you do not recognize. You can also ask your insurance company to help you identify errors.
- Negotiate with your billing agent: Speak to the billing agent of your healthcare provider to negotiate your charges. However, do not wait around to do this. It is better to talk to the agent as soon as you have verified the bill to avoid damaging your credit score. Many hospitals offer hardship assistance to patients struggling with medical notes. Compare the price on your receipt with what most providers charge for similar services in the area. You can use online services, such as New Choice Health, for a fairer estimate.
- Get expert advice: Not everyone is an expert on medical bills. Most people find medical bills too confusing and overly technical. Fortunately, you can ask for help from professionals. People like medical caseworkers, medical billing advocates, and debt negotiators can help you with this task. They will do whatever it takes to reduce your bill and finance your medical treatment.
- Ask for assistance: Some companies realize the difficulties of paying your medical bills. Therefore, many organizations offer financial support to patients suffering from certain disorders. For example, Needy Meds helps people with unaffordable medication. Patients suffering from rare illnesses can contact the National Organization for Rare Disorders to pay medical bills.
- Cut down medication costs: Scientists are still studying the effects of medical marijuana on pain management. However, according to a study from the University of Georgia, medical marijuana reduces the need for prescription drugs. Medications for chronic illnesses are expensive, so shifting to medical marijuana can save some costs. But, we recommend you be cautious. There are other ways you can reduce your prescription drug costs. For example, patients can buy drugs in bulk from Big Box retailers at reduced rates. Most retailers offer significant discounts to their customers. Opting for generic prescriptions is another way to trim prescription costs. Most generic drugs are just as effective as name brands. However, they are much cheaper than other alternatives.
High medical costs are the primary reason most Americans file for bankruptcy. No matter how well-off a person is, medical bills related to chronic illnesses can affect anyone. But, people suffering from chronic diseases often get the short end of the stick. Not only do they have to spend their lives with a debilitating illness, but they are also more likely to lose their job. Fortunately, there are some ways patients can pay their bills and reduce costs. They can ask others to help them pay their bills or opt for flexible payment options. If all else fails, you can always start a crowdfunding campaign.