1) Are high deductible plans scaring off some consumers from going to the doctor?
There’s no doubt that higher deductibles are preventing some consumers from seeing their physician—and studies reinforce this.
For example, last fall, a Commonwealth Fund survey, “Too High a Price: Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs in the United States,” found that about three of five privately insured adults with low incomes and half of those with moderate incomes reported their deductibles to be unaffordable. In addition, two of five adults with private insurance who had high deductibles relative to their income said they delayed necessary care because of their deductible.
According to a Gallup Poll conducted last year, even though more Americans are insured as a result of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), 33% of Americans have delayed medical treatment because of cost. What’s troubling is that of this number, 22% said they put off treatment of a “very” or “somewhat serious” medical condition.
Other surveys and studies over the past year have found similar results—that people are delaying care treatments because of high deductibles.
2) Is this exacerbating the issue and making their medical conditions worse?
In some cases, yes it is. If the decision is made to hold off on necessary medical treatment due to costs, such an event will place great risk on your health, and even possibly your life.
3) What are some other options, such as using the HSA or finding cheaper doctors?
An HSA is certainly an option to help cover your out-of-pocket medical expenses. You don’t have to find a cheaper doctor, however, you can ask your doctor for more affordable point-of-care options. For example, MRIs and CT scans are expensive, especially if these imaging tests done at the hospital. Ask your doctor for other alternative places you can get an imaging test. Be sure, however, it’s an ACR-accredited facility. The same holds true for lab work. If you need to get a blood test, ask about your options.
4) How do you find out what doctors are charging for various procedures?
Again, just ask the medical practice what they would charge. As consumers, we are encouraged to become more involved in our well-being, this goes for costs as well. Don’t be afraid to communicate and speak up. And this goes for any specialists that your physician recommends as well. Need to see a physical therapist? Besides the cost per visit, you should also find out how many visits you will need.
Some providers will also give you a discount if you pay in advance for a procedure. Again, it’s a matter of asking your physician. In today’s world where rising deductibles have become the norm, medical practices are used to fielding questions about cost.
Finally, some states offer a price comparison website such as Wisconsin’s PricePoint and New Hampshire’s Health Cost website. These sites show what hospitals in those states charge for various procedures.