We all know of folks who go broke after a health crisis, and we all like to think it can’t happen to us.
After all, we have GOOD insurance – maybe some mix of a retirement health benefit from an old employer, decent Medicare coverage, and possibly even a supplemental plan.
We’re COVERED, right?
Well, friend, odds are you’re not nearly as covered as you think you are.
A growing number of docs are shrinking the number of insurance policies they accept – and if you’re in a hospital stuck with one who doesn’t accept your plan, get ready for some sticker shock.
An emergency operation to remove a blockage could end up removing all your cash, too!
A new study finds that many docs are charging out-of-network patients exorbitant fees for their services.
Regular family docs such as internists and “general medicine” practitioners along with shrinks, dermatologists, immunologists, geriatrics specialists, and allergists charge out-of-network patients between 1.6 times and double the going Medicare rates.
Think that’s bad?
That’s downright cheap compared to the ones you’re likely to run into in a hospital: Half of anesthesiologists in the analysis charged SIX TIMES Medicare rates!
Other hospital docs are nearly as bad. “Emergency medicine” practitioners will take you for four times the going rate, while interventional radiologists charge at least 4.5 times more, according to the analysis of data on 429,273 doctors.
Many of these docs accept Medicare, so if you have one of those plans you might not have too much to worry about.
But some docs no longer take the plan, and many now restrict the private plans they accept – in some cases severely – so if you’re on one of those, you could end up with some big bills.
There are times when you can plan ahead and dodge them. If you’re having an elective or scheduled procedure, speak not only to your doctor but also the hospital and make sure that EVERYONE who sets foot in that room is on your plan.
If you don’t, they could be drawing straws in the anesthesiology ward to see who goes in for you – and it might be someone who won’t accept your insurance.
But, of course, you don’t get to choose your doctors if you arrive in the back of an ambulance. It’s life-or-death, and you’ll get whoever can help FAST.
If the bill comes weeks later and it’s going to drain your bank account, don’t just pay up and then starve yourself afterward.
Get on the horn and call the hospital’s billing department. In many cases, you can renegotiate some of these bills and get them to take less cash and put whatever’s left on a payment plan.