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Tips on How to Help Save on Medical Costs

Dr. Sandy S. Brannin from Internal Medicine discusses medical insurance and offers tips on how to help keep medical costs down. Also, read what CEO Jeff James says about putting off medical costs.

 

Please Don’t Put Off Healthcare Because of Cost

By Jeff James, Wilmington Health CEO

I had an interesting opportunity recently to engage with young adults about their healthcare concerns, needs, and wants. Throughout the conversations, those in attendance discussed their particular adventures in utilizing this doctor or that hospital, all of which provided great insight to me in planning the future for our organization, and for that I am very grateful. The discussion covered the entire continuum of topics related to healthcare, which of course included their concerns about the high cost of health insurance and care.

A few stories, however, alarmed me. I heard stories of individuals refusing to get medical attention because of the perceived cost. One individual related how her roommate took a serious fall injuring her lower body. The roommate indicated that she was in a good deal of pain, but she demanded to wait it out because she didn’t want to have to pay for an emergency room visit. The next morning, still in terrible pain, she agreed to seek medical attention and was diagnosed with a broken hip and pelvic bone—nearly 12 hours after the fall occurred.

Another instance was for a burn to one’s arm that probably needed more serious attention than could be provided at home but again a refusal to seek medical attention because of cost. When the wound didn’t heal, they finally sought medical assistance. It turned out to be more expensive because they waited to seek treatment in the first place.

I think we all recognize there are challenges facing the healthcare system, specifically as it relates to cost. However, there are many things we, as bosses, co-workers, family members, and friends, need to keep communicating to those who “out-of-hand” say that healthcare just costs too much. There are always options that can reduce one’s overall cost to receive care and not seeking treatment shouldn’t be one of them.

The cost of care rises given the level of acuity a facility is able to treat. So if you can, start with the options that are lower cost and then go up from there. Here’s an example of how you might think of the escalating options:

A call, text, or portal message to your doctor’s office generally costs you absolutely nothing and can be the starting point for whether or not you do need to be seen.
Telemedicine is a newer healthcare avenue that allows you to have a doctor visit using your computer’s built-in camera. Often these visits will have a copay or some expense, but generally are lower than a regular visit to your doctor’s office.
Visiting your doctor’s office is your next option and will generally have a copay or deductible. 
Next levels of care and cost can be found at one of the many options for walk-in services. The typical names associated with these are convenient care, urgent care, well-clinics, etc. The level of care is typically less than an emergency room but can be more than what a doctor’s office provides. These facilities, if there is need to escalate your medical concern to a hospital, will do so. However, they often can treat a great deal more than one would think at a lower cost.
The emergency room will be the highest cost option and should be considered your first option only in the case of a serious injury or medical emergency.

One thing to consider when evaluating all of these options is the continuity of care that you will receive with any of the options described above. We always recommend utilizing your primary care provider as the gatekeeper for all of your health needs. Your primary care provider can give you a list of facilities/services that have access to your electronic medical record to ensure all of your care continues to be coordinated. This can save both time and money for nearly all patients.

While healthcare is challenged by rising costs, we cannot let it stop our patients from seeking the medical care they need. We are constantly working to change the healthcare landscape and bend the cost curve down. Until that time, we need to educate those around us about where they can seek the most appropriate and cost-effective care. Not getting medical attention should not be an option.