When you hear the word “medical bill,” your first thought might be about how much it costs. After all, medical bills are a huge expense for most people these days. According to the National Council on Patient Care (NCPC), medical expenses are the third-largest financial cost for American households, after housing and autos.
Americans spend more than $1.2 trillion annually on healthcare services, making it one of the most expensive sectors of the U.S. economy. And those prices don’t come cheap! Medical costs can be very high for several reasons. The first is that most medical services are not covered by insurance or other forms of payment except cashless clinics or government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Even private insurance may not cover all of your medical expenses beyond a certain threshold amount per year or provider—or in some cases any at all if you’re under 18 years old or have certain pre-existing conditions that mean you won’t be able to obtain coverage indefinitely again once they re-occur in your lifetime.
Emergency room visits are sky-high for several reasons. First, not all insurance companies or government programs cover the cost at all or will cover it at all. If you have no insurance or have an extremely limited form of coverage, you may have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket or get a hefty financial loan.
For many people, an emergency room visit is a final straw that causes them to lose their jobs or go bankrupt. Emergency room visits are also sky-high because of how expensive medical care is today.
Many experts believe that the high costs of medicine are due to several factors: the fact that most people go to the doctor far more than they need to, the fact that doctors don’t always have time to provide helpful, personalized care but must instead spend an inordinate amount of time performing costly tests and procedures, and the fact that patients and doctors aren’t always clear on the cause of their illness or injury.
Medications are expensive for several reasons. First, medications are expensive to create and make. Drug companies spend a fortune researching new medications, developing them, and marketing them—both to doctors and to consumers. Second, people typically take multiple medications over time to treat several health issues or conditions.
For example, most people take an antidepressant to combat their depressive symptoms, antidiabetic medications to control their blood sugar levels, and antibiotics to treat infections. These medications are also expensive because people often don’t take them correctly and don’t consume the correct amount of the medication.
Pills may be forgotten at home or not taken on a regular schedule. People may also take too many pills at once and not get to the important chemicals or ingredients in the medication that does them good.
How Much Does a Doctor’s Visit Cost?
A visit to the doctor’s office or clinic will cost at least $100 on average. This is because the federal government and most state governments do not subsidize the cost of seeing a doctor. Many people have a monthly or annual deductible that they have to pay before the government will even cover a portion of the cost.
Fortunately, some insurance companies do cover a certain percentage of the cost of seeing a doctor. Medicare and some private insurance plans will cover a certain percentage of the cost of a doctor’s visit. In addition, some states such as Colorado and Utah have programs that help to subsidize the cost of seeing a doctor.
It is extremely rare for blood tests or imaging costs to be less than $100. Bleeding disorders, cancer, and many other diseases or conditions often require blood tests to be performed. The cost of blood tests can vary wildly based on where you live and how often you need to have them.
Imaging, or an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI, usually costs at least $100. The decision to have these tests done is typically one of two things: you have cancer or some other condition that requires immediate medical attention or you have a non-cancerous condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Many other common medical bills include lab tests, hospital stays, and prescription medicines. Some insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid will cover a certain percentage of the cost of these services.
For example, you may have to pay a certain amount out of pocket for certain prescription drugs, but your insurance plan will cover the remainder. You may have a deductible that you need to pay before your insurance plan will pay for your hospital stay.
Why Are Medical Bills So High?
People who do not have insurance or who have extremely limited insurance coverage are most likely to end up with a giant medical bill they’re unable to pay. However, many people who have insurance will still end up in a financial bind because they don’t take the necessary steps to understand their insurance coverage and protect themselves from extremely high medical bills.
If you don’t have insurance, you’ll be shocked to learn that you’ll likely end up paying more than $1,000 just for a doctor’s visit and then thousands more for the medical care that follows. The fact that most people don’t have health insurance coverage may also be a contributing factor to the high cost of medical care.
As more people reject employer-provided health insurance and opt for government coverage like Medicare and Medicaid, costs will only continue to climb.
Strategies to Reduce Your Medical Bill
First, be sure to have health insurance. Even if you can’t afford it, simply having health insurance may help you to get life-saving treatment in an emergency room or prevent you from falling into financial ruin if you have a major illness or injury that requires hospitalization.
Government health insurance plans, such as Medicare or Medicaid, may help to offset some of the cost of emergency room care and avoid some of the financial burdens of paying a huge medical bill. Health insurance providers often offer a variety of discounts and membership plans to help people with high medical bills reduce the cost of their medical care.
For example, you may be able to join a network of nearby doctors and hospitals that follow the same practice protocol. Or you may be able to get discounted medical care by joining a health insurance plan that includes a network of hospitals and doctors.
Health insurance is essential to protecting yourself from high medical bills. You may be able to get a government health insurance plan like Medicare or Medicaid that helps to offset the cost of certain medical bills. Try to stay physically fit and active so that you don’t get sick as often and require more expensive medical care. If you do get sick, make sure to take your antibiotics as prescribed and don’t skip any doses.
This can help you to avoid expensive hospital stays and get better more quickly. Keep a food journal and track your physical activity levels to make sure that you are eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. This will help ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy and prevent you from getting sick.