Life comes at you quickly, especially when unexpected medical emergencies happen. The coronavirus pandemic has everyone on edge. Unemployment claims have reached unprecedented levels, as many Bay Area residents are worried about making rent and feeding their families. The good news is that Bay Area hospitals are seeing declines in patients intakes due to COVID-19, according to reports by government health officials. The smoke will clear eventually and bills will need to be paid once again.
A 2019 study by Dr. David U. Himmelstein of Hunter College, found that nearly 67% of bankruptcies were filed due to medical bills or time off work because of medical issues. Only 40% of Americans have enough money saved up to handle an unexpected $1,000 expense, according to personal finance website Bankrate. Many Americans received at least $1,200 from the federal government last month to help them get through the month. But longer-term solutions are necessary. Fortunately there are options for less expensive medical care for those willing to put forth the effort.
Here are three tips to nip potential medical disaster in the bud.
A 2018 study by Delta Dental Plans Association found that 42% of Americans don't see their dentists as often as they should. Part of that is due to fear. A survey by market research firm DentaVox found that 61% of respondents said they don't like stepping foot in dental offices. The sound of dental drills, smell of chemicals and pain were cited as the most common reasons for their reluctance. The other major deterrent is high costs, even when you have dental coverage.
Ten of thousands of Americans travel to the Mexican border town of Los Algodones every year for dental care. It's about 10 minutes from Yuma, Arizona. The town is nicknamed “Molar City” because over 350 dentists set up shop there. They rely not only on business from Americans, but also recommendations from their patients to other Americas. Most people park their cars on the U.S. side of the border and walk to their destinations. There are stories of Americans taking $10,000 invoices from their home dentists down to Molar City and getting all the work done for under $2,000.
It's best to get recommendations before heading south. But the dentists there are very friendly, forthcoming and professional. Just ask your potential dentist any and all questions you need to feel comfortable. All of them speak English. Make your dental visit part of a vacation. Keep in mind you do need a passport to cross the border. There are also dentists in Cancun and Tijuana with five-star Google ratings. The U.S./Mexico border is open for essential travel, which includes medical procedures.
The “it never hurts to ask” philosophy should always come into play when it comes to medical bills, especially emergency room visits. Calling a hospital’s billing department and explaining your situation can easily net thousands in savings. A Bay Area blogger wrote that his bill was improperly coded. The billing department re-coded him from insurance to “self-pay.” That simple step cut his five-figure bill to $4,700. He offered to pay $2,000 immediately if they wiped out the rest of the bill. The hospital obliged.
A 2017 audit by Equifax found that all hospital bills over $10,000 contained errors averaging $1,300. Upwards of 80% of medical bills contain errors, depending on which studies you believe. Americans spent over $3.7 trillion on medical expenses in 2019. There’s no magic method of lowering healthcare bills. But due diligence can save you thousands of dollars. Some of the most common billing errors include:•Upcoding - improperly coding a more expensive treatment
Medical coding is a profession that requires a certificate from an institution of higher learning. You’re not going to understand it completely. But always ask for itemized bills, read it them, notate anything that seems unusual, and take it up with the billing department.
The complexity of medical billing and rising costs have created an industry of medical billing experts who help patients negotiate better rates. Stick to the nonprofits in this sector. They typically provide their services free of charge or for very small donations. Some actually help pay your bills. A few organizations to consider include:•HealthWell Foundation - nonprofit for patients in need
Eco Office is providing helpful articles like this during the pandemic to provide reassurance to Bay Area residents. We're human just like everyone else and are anxious for things to get back to normal. We're currently open and providing essential services to businesses related to plexiglass safety barriers and office partitions to ensure safe social distancing when the state fully reopens. Give us a call today at 408-437-1700 to discuss your options.