The healthcare industry has seen significant advancements in the last few decades. Personalized medicines, targeted therapies, robotic surgeries, 3D printing, and lab-on-a-chip technologies are only a few innovations of late. They’ve transformed the health sector beyond our wildest imaginations and provided us with medical-related solutions that only until recently seemed far from reach. Broader availability of the internet, a more affluent middle class, and an aging population are driving up change in the healthcare industry.
While all these associated technologies have considerably affected healthcare services for the better, they don’t come without any problems of their own. The most outstanding of these is increasing expenses.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), five key factors contribute to increasing healthcare costs:
- service price and intensity
- disease prevalence or incidence
- medical service utilization
- population growth
- aging population
With time, these costs are likely to grow even higher, and hence it’s crucial to come up with ways to make them more affordable. Here, we have outlined a few ways to manage towering healthcare costs in the current time and age.
- Use your benefits
It has become increasingly common for companies to integrate benefits for medical, dental, and pharmacy services for their employees. If you receive these sorts of subsidies through your employer’s health plan, you’re probably required to go through routine health screenings. These screenings can help detect medical issues at early stages when treatments are more affordable and have a better prognosis. For example, workers exposed to asbestos can get tested for mesothelioma diagnosis before it becomes a significant problem. They can even file a legal claim against their employers. An average mesothelioma settlement can cover a significant portion of treatment costs and help patients manage the growing costs required during recovery.
Other benefits like prenatal care can ensure you and your baby’s health if you’re pregnant. It can save costs by avoiding an extended stay at the hospital and consequently racking up the bill.
- Eliminate unnecessary care
Care that doesn’t improve health is known as unnecessary care. Although it may be easy to define, it’s pretty challenging to identify it—and even harder to eliminate it. Researchers must conduct studies to investigate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of various tests, drugs, and treatments to recognize unnecessary care. Often internationally accredited organizations provide guidelines for evaluating and treating certain illnesses to use the best approach to treat them and avoid additional costs. Unfortunately, however, these guidelines are only available for a limited number of disorders and may differ across various organizations.
Healthcare costs often become exceedingly high in the last years of life when people use expensive treatments to try and prolong life. While they may extend life expectancy by a bit longer, these treatments considerably increase the discomfort and dependency of an individual. During this time, it’s more helpful to employ hospice or palliative care that focuses on relieving symptoms and isn’t as costly as technology-intensive care units.
- Follow doctor’s orders
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions for chronic conditions remain unfilled. Additionally, about half the patients don’t take medicines as prescribed, and this failure to follow recommended regimens result in dire and sometimes fatal consequences. This nonadherence has severe repercussions on the healthcare system, which already receives a constant inflow of patients. Several factors like the patient’s social and economic status, the complexity of treatment instructions, education level, or poor communication by the care provider can contribute to it. Some patients may even stop taking medication if they experience adverse effects or don’t feel any immediate benefit from the prescribed dose.
Regardless of how pointless you may find your recommended treatment, don’t stop taking your doctors’ orders without letting them know. What may seem as inconsequential as skipping your meds today can end up costing you millions of dollars in complex treatments tomorrow.
- Check your bills
Medical bills are often too complex and confusing for a non-specialist to understand easily. As a result, most patients and their attendants don’t even attempt to understand their financial obligation and end up paying beyond the services used. Errors ranging from typos to wrong codes and duplicate billing can considerably mount up a hospital bill. You must recognize these before spending any extra costs. Additionally, healthcare industries should make the billing system more understandable to facilitate consumers. Patients must see and understand all the prices in real-time as they get incurred.
- Ask for the cost
Not many people know this, but you can negotiate your hospital bills. After explaining to your healthcare provider you can’t afford to pay a high-cost bill, you can request a reduction in the pricing. While you may not be successful on your first try, you may still be able to get your expenses down to a more affordable rate.
You can even ask around other hospitals in your area to see which one of them offers services that fall in your price range. For routine procedures, it’s pretty easy to consult and seek treatment from local doctors who probably won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Additionally, you may even request healthcare facilities to let you pay in installments or seek any other financial plan they might have.
- Use generic prescriptions
Previously, pharmaceutical companies targeted their advertisement campaigns at doctors. But in 1997, the FDA eased restrictions and allowed them to market their drugs directly to consumers. Because of this transformation, patients started receiving ads promoting name-brand drug treatments. Unsurprisingly, these are far more costly than generic drugs that are just as effective and safe as branded medications. So, to save high costs on prescriptions, ask your healthcare provider if there’s a less expensive medicine available that can treat your condition.
- Create a health savings account
With savings accounts such as those for healthcare, you can set aside money that’s tax-exempted for your medical expenses. The limit to the amount of money you can keep in this account changes from year to year. You can keep the money in this account for as long as you want and enjoy additional benefits like claiming tax deductions on your savings and earning tax-free interest. You may even carry over any of your unused funds into the following year.
Modern science will continue to bring bigger and better innovations to the healthcare industry in the upcoming years. But bigger and better often also means more pricey. Fortunately, strategies like using your benefits, eliminating unnecessary care, checking bills, and using generic medicine may help you manage your medical costs more effectively.