Bankruptcies caused by the abundance and overprice of medical bills will affect about 2 million people in America this year alone (Olen). This puts health care on the top of the list, being the number one cause of bankruptcy. This means its even more of a problem than bankruptcy claims related to common credit-card bills or unpaid mortgages.
Health insurance has been aiding people for years with this issue, but even having health insurance doesn’t help consumers fight against financial issues (Mangan). The problem of the increasing price of medical bills needs to be solved, and the solution is to increase insurance help and increasing the knowledge of how to deal with the overpiling of medical bills. Many patients and families of patients wonder why the treatment bills become so large so fast. A variety of things contribute to the overwhelming price of medical bills.
First it depends upon how you arrive to the hospital, whether you have been recently rushed to the emergency room after an unplanned incident or there with a chronic disease. When you’re rushed to an emergency room, the doctors immediately order a variety of tests to try to diagnose you. While the variety of scans and many blood draws can tell them an immense amount about what the diagnosis is and the best treatment you should get, study after study shows that all of this testing isn’t actually leading to better care in the end, and just making you pay more money (Park). The average cost of a simple blood workup is around $500 give or take (Bricker). Therefore, with a chronic disease, you are required for not only these simple blood workups but a series of other tests as well – depending on your diagnosis – and these tests add up quickly. It is common that you have the standard treatments for your particular diagnosis but also you need to be aware of doctors who will order too many tests for you, whether you’re in the ER or the ICU. Time magazine noticed this pattern of doctors over ordering tests and conducted an experiment asking 435 doctors about ordering tests for their patients.
Of the 435 ER physicians asked about the tests they order for their patients, more than 85% admitted that in general, they call for too many tests, even if they know the results won’t really help them decide how to treat their patients. Reporting in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, the authors also say that nearly all of the doctors—97%—admitted to personally ordering unnecessary imaging tests (Park).This type of unnecessary testing is contributing to an estimated $210 billion in additional health care costs (Kliff). Ideally, the correct testing and avoiding the unneeded tests should reduce costs by detecting and diagnosing problems early, so patients can get the right treatments and avoid expensive care. Tests do not stand alone when on the topic of being billed for a service that you didn’t necessarily need.
In addition to tests, there is also an abundance of unnecessary treatments and surgeries. Unnecessary surgeries account for at least 10% to 20% of all operations in some specialties, including a wide variety of cardiac surgeries as well as many spinal surgeries. Tens of thousands of times each year, patients are wheeled into the nation’s operating rooms for surgery that isn’t necessary, a usa today review of government records and medical databases finds. Even more people turn to doctors who simply lack the competence or training to recognize when a surgical procedure can be avoided, either because the medical facts don’t warrant it or because there are non-surgical treatments that would better serve the patient (Eisler and Hansen). Additionally, services that were ordered, but you never actually received, could cause you to be charged more than you owe. Things like tests, x-rays, scans, etc are all examples of instances where a hospital may order you something, and you may still be billed for it, though it never occured. Many americans chose to avoid treatment because of the price.
More than 25 million people are skipping doses, taking less medication or delaying refilling prescriptions to save money (Mangan). Others chose the threat of death over the threat of bankruptcy. Researchers at the New York Times discovered that the typical United States hospital charges were on average 3.4 times the Medicare-allowable cost in 2012. In other words, when the hospital incurs $100 of Medicare-allowable costs, the hospital charges about $340 (Leiber). Hospitals are technically not allowed to do this, but no one is stopping them. Gerald Anderson, a Health Policy and Management professor speaks out about this issue.
There is no justification for these outrageous rates, but no one tells hospitals they can’t charge them. For the most part, there is no regulation of hospital rates and there are no market forces that force hospitals to lower their rates. They charge these prices simply because they can. Hospitals may not be able to “end” their overcharge of services, but you can avoid seeking aid from for-profit hospitals. (“Hospital Charges:…”). Most of the more extreme high-markup hospitals are in Southern United States, with most residing in Florida.
At the top 50 most marked up hospitals, 20 are in for-profit-hospital- friendly Florida. This is an issue and could potentially be dangerous for those seeking care as hospitals are slowly steering towards profit and quite possibly a monopoly. Hospitals are extremely overpricing their services, and nothing is being done about it. There’s no fighting that health care is costly. A huge group of Americans who go each year to see doctors and surgeons may receive life-saving treatment but leave hemorrhaging money. This is the case even for many patients who have health insurance. Even with insurance on healthcare people still cant pay the medical bills. Nearly half of underinsured adults said they used their savings to pay their bills and 44 percent said they had received lower credit ratings because of medical bills.
A third of the underinsured said they took on credit card debt to pay for health care that wasn’t covered through their benefits, and 7 percent declared bankruptcy as a result of medical bills (Firger). This issue is detrimental because even the americans with the help from the government simply still can’t manage to pay for all of the medical bills. NerdWallet estimates that at least 1.7 million people will file for bankruptcy protection this year. Even outside of bankruptcy, about 56 million adults will still struggle with health-care-related bills this year, according to NerdWallet Health.
These are just the people who aren’t insured. If you think only Americans without health insurance face financial troubles, think again. NerdWallet estimates nearly 10 million adults with year-round health-insurance coverage will still have medical bills that they can’t pay off this year (Mangan). “With an average American family bringing home $50,000 in income, a high medical bill and a high-deductible insurance plan can quickly become something they are unable to pay,” NerdWallet Health chairman Christina LaMontagne said. “If you have an out-of-pocket maximum of $5,000 or $10,000, that’s really tough,” she said. People with or without health insurance continue to struggle with the threat of bankruptcy just around the corner, but how do we make it stop?To make the medical bill expenses go away won’t be easy.
There isn’t any data showing that such shared decision-making would reduce unnecessary testing, but if doctor and patient are clearer about the causes for testing or not testing, then maybe less tests might be done for non-medical reasons.Even though the Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama back in 2010, has managed to eliminate some price issues within the system, problems persist (“A Brief History…”). The American Healthcare Act bill to repeal and replace Obamacare narrowly passed the House of Representatives on May 7 2017, advancing a plan that would gut health coverage for millions of Americans while delivering tax cuts to the rich (Christensen). The American Health Care Act, as the bill is called, had been changed in several ways since it was pulled from a House vote in March after failing to gain and maintain enough support in the house. In making changes, Republican leaders tried to satisfy both conservatives who thought the previous version was too much like Obamacare (aka, the Affordable Care Act or ACA) and the moderates who worried about people losing coverage like they are today (Adamczyk). Obamacare helped over millions of people and was a step in the right direction to help with medical bills and treatments. Now, with the American Health Care Act, we may have taken a step in the wrong direction.
In order to be the most cost proficient in the hospital, you need to be educated. Educate yourself prior to hospitalization (if possible) to avoid any slip up and to make yourself as intelligent as possible in regards to hospitals and their bills. Become aware of the common billing errors like duplicating things on the bills, wrong treatments, and unnecessary tests.
Also, walk into procedures knowledgeable of the price (Fontinelle). This provides legitimacy as well as making sure they don’t change the price and up-bill you when not necessary. Also, ask the doctors if you or anyone in your family qualifies for any discounts like military, disability, etc as though it might be little, it will help. Lastly, become aware with the healthcare that you have and that your insurance provides because then it allows you to keep track of your money easier.
With the prices of medical bills going up, more and more Americans hope for a future goes down as bankruptcy becomes more prevalent. Today hospitals continuously charge you more than they need to and falsely bill you in a variety of ways.