About 50% of American Baby Boomers now report that someone in their family has curtailed their medical care or medications delaying checkups, suggested tests and procedures; cutting pills, skipping doses or not filled new prescriptions according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted. That’s up from 42% of those surveyed six months earlier.
One in three Baby Boomers are experiencing difficulty paying doctor’s visit expenses, and one in five reports medical debt of at least $1,000.
Indeed in 2007, before the economy truly took a down spin, we saw that one in five individuals were having difficulties paying medical expenses up from one in seven just 4 years earlier according to Alwyn Cassil, Center for Studying Health System Change, an impartial research association in D.C.
Prior to the economic fallout, no less than 79 million Americans – including nearly 7 million Baby Boomers were battling with health care bills. Now, more are doing what they can to avoid joining those ranks, even when it means both their health and comfort suffer.
In a review led by AARP, one in five respondents blamed health problems on financial stress. About the same percentage said they had delayed seeing a doctor or other medical professional; many reported cutting back on drugs and necessary health care. Roughly one in five respondents also reported seeking outside assistance through drug companies, pharmacies and other programs to reduce their health costs.
Since the recent financial crisis made news, the American Psychological Association reports a 12% increase over last spring in people saying the economy is a significant source of stress; those hardest hit are women middle-aged and older. Yet as stress levels increase, psychiatrists and psychologists, along with other health providers, report a drop in patients seeking therapy, largely because of the expense.
What Can We Do About It?
1. Ask your provider for a discount.
Few individuals request one, yet when they did, 70% of patients who negotiated with hospitals got a price break. Sixty-one percent succeeded in getting a reduction from their doctor and 64% were rewarded with a discount from their dentist, as indicated by a Harris/Wall Street Journal overview. For best results call a local insurer to inquire about its reimbursement rate (usually ? to 2/3 of the billed amount). Then politely contact your doctor or hospital administrator in person, not by phone, for a discount.
2. Tap into local programs.
Begin with your neighborhood or state health department office or visit the U.S. Division of Health and Human Services to learn about available services, from preventative screenings to primary care. These tax-supported programs primarily serve the uninsured, but sometimes accept insured patients, often on a sliding scale basis. Also try your member of Congress, state representative and even the attorney general’s consumer protection office for the inside scoop on little-publicized programs in your area.
3. Make a formal follow-up.
If you are billed for services you thought should have been covered by your insurer, write a letter—rather than calling—to find out why. “Oftentimes, insurers play a cash flow game with providers, saying your treatment costs weren’t submitted on the proper form,” says patient advocate Mark Rukavina. To better ensure a quick resolution, note on your formal letter that copies are being sent to the above-mentioned officials.
4. Think generic in all cases.
It’s an easy decision that generics are normally less expensive than their brand-name counterparts. The same applies to OTC medications, vitamins and other health care products, human services items, with store brands costing up to 40% less.
5. Consider a flexible spending account (FSA)
These underutilized employee savings accounts let you sock away pretax cash for medical related costs. Funds set aside can also be used to stock up on eligible OTC drugstore items, such as acetaminophen or mouthwash. Any money not spent by year’s end is forfeited. Find out more by researching FSA online.
6. Apply for hospital charity care.
More Baby Boomers with annual household incomes below $23,000 automatically qualify. Even if you earn more, you may still be eligible depending on the average household income in your zip code.
Article contributed by BabyBoomer-Magazine.com