February is Wise Health Care Consumer Month, designed to help consumers understand more about their health care costs and options. But with about one in four emergency room (ER) visits deemed unnecessary, the improper use of health care resources can add up to billions in wasted dollars each year.1 Many consumers may not even know they have access to alternatives like telemedicine, nurse hotlines, or other lower-cost choices. Below, we detail five steps to help you become a wiser health care consumer.
Investigate Treatment Options When You Can
In an emergency, it generally doesn't make sense to shop around for healthcare or determine whether a particular ER doctor is in-network or out-of-network. But in most cases, especially if you're seeking diagnostic testing or are hoping to visit a specialist to tackle a challenging problem, it may be a good idea to investigate your options, read reviews, and ask others for recommendations. By choosing the right physician or medical provider the first time, you may avoid being shuffled around to multiple providers for the same issue.
Keep Up on Regular Visits
More than half of all U.S. adults missed regular healthcare appointments during the pandemic, due in part to overwhelmed medical facilities and in part to fear of contracting COVID-19.2 But missing these regular appointments may allow small issues to turn into bigger (and more expensive) ones. It's important to keep up on your well-patient visits, from dental cleanings to sports physicals to cancer screening appointments like mammograms, colonoscopies, and pap smears.
Understand Your Healthcare Plan
One of the key elements of responsible health care consumerism is understanding the ins and outs of what your plan covers. Not only may this prevent you from being hit with an unexpected medical bill, but it may help you determine how much money to set aside in a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) for the upcoming year's expenses.
Take Advantage of Outside-the-Box Solutions
There are plenty of lower-cost alternatives to what we think of as "traditional" healthcare. From telemedicine visits that make it possible to attend an exam from the comfort of your living room, generic medications and therapies that are far cheaper than the name brand, and off-label applications of certain treatments, there are plenty of paths you may be able to take to achieve the same (or a similar) result.
Bring a Loved One to Appointments
Attending a medical appointment may be stressful, especially if you're anticipating bad news. You may not be in the best position to retain the information your healthcare provider is giving you. By bringing a friend or loved one into the appointment with you, you have a second set of ears to hear what's being communicated, review it with you later, and ask any relevant questions you may not have thought of.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.
This article was prepared by WriterAccess.
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1 https://healthylife.com/wise/ 2 https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2020/05/27/poll-nearly-half-of-us-adults-skipping-care-amid-pandemic/