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Does Healthcare Always Have To Cost So Much?

Does Healthcare Always Have to Cost This Much?

I recently read the trending story about a father who received a large bill from the hospital he had visited with his daughter. After a few hours in the waiting room and a short visit from the nurse and physician, his daughter received a Band-Aid for her injury and was told stitches were not needed.

Awesome. Crisis averted. Except, now, this dad was saddled with a nearly $600 bill.

What happened? Well, his simple visit to the ER resulted in a complicated bill. This dad is not alone. Consumers are saddled with increasingly high healthcare costs – which, in many cases, are not justified by their outcomes. On the other hand, the Emergency Room has incredibly high overhead costs associated with a single visit. And while many deem it unfair, those who can pay, end up covering the costs for those who cannot. No doubt, it is a broken system and we have a lot of work to do with regards to insurance, reimbursement structures and price transparency for consumers.

However, while all the smart folks are focusing on building a solution, what are we, as the patients – the consumer's, supposed to do?

We take back control - do the research and ask questions:

1. Urgent Care – stand-alone clinics and urgent care facilities are popping up everywhere. They can provide cheaper, more efficient care for many of the common urgent concerns. Visit an urgent care center and avoid the $600 Band-Aid conundrum.

2. Nurse Call Lines – If you are lucky enough to have health insurance, use the services provided through your insurer. Most health insurance companies have an established nurse line. Their job is to field your questions and help you understand if something is indeed an emergency. Often, an ER visit can wait until the morning when a doctor is available. Call and get some advice before rushing to the ER.

3. After Hours Call Line – Does your child have a high fever? Are you worried about a rash? If you are part of a pediatric office, more than likely your doctor has set up a call line where you can phone for questions and concerns. Call and ask.

4. ASK Questions – When you see a doctor, for a wellness check or for a specific concern, ask your provider when a situation becomes an emergency. When does a fever become worrisome? Is heavy breathing ALWAYS an emergency? Arm yourself with the basics so making a decision later, in a time of worry, becomes easier.

There are some people without access to coverage. And that remains a big concern and a struggle within our healthcare system today. But, despite this large issue, there is more we can do. And, with nearly 20% of ER visit's treatable at a lower cost facility, it is our duty to become educated consumers of health and seek treatment that is more affordable. Let's lighten our financial load… a bit, anyway.

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