How to Be a Proactive Health Care Consumer

Many American families spend a lot of money on health care. At the 2017, Financial Planning Association (FPA) meeting, a speaker noted “The only option that we (consumers) have to control health care costs is to be better health care consumers.”

What to do? Below are some suggested patient empowerment strategies:

 

  • Always verify the insurance status of a new doctor (or one that you haven’t seen recently). Ask “Is the doctor in network with [Name of Insurance Company]?,” not “Do you take my insurance?”
  • Be prepared for appointments. Write down key information about your medical history including types and dates of surgeries and types of medication taken and their dosage.
  • Write down questions that you want answered in advance.
  • Get answers in laymen’s terms- not medical jargon.
  • Ask what a doctor wants to learn from a specific medical test.
  • Ask if there is a less expensive location to get a test done (e.g., non-hospital based labs or physical therapy).
  • If medication is ordered, ask about the side effects.
  • Ask what you can do to improve the situation (e.g., change of diet and exercise).
  • Enlist advocates for your care when you are ill.
  • Don’t miss key enrollment and plan selection deadlines such as an employer’s open enrollment period. For 2017, Affordable Care Act coverage enrollment and plan selection dates are November 1- December 15 (see www.healthcare.gov) and Medicare enrollment and plan selection dates are October 15- December 7.

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