The federal government regulates which, and what percentage of, medical treatments and procedures that insurance companies must cover.
Nevertheless, as a healthcare consumer, you have a lot more control over pricing that you may think.
Shannon Brenneke is a broker at wall street insurance group, based in Jefferson City, Missouri. She specializes in individual, medicare and group benefits and says consumers rarely price compare their healthcare needs.
“Kind of like shopping for anything else, we go onto amazon and buy and we shop for those items," said Brenneke. "For some reason, in healthcare, we don’t do that. We just do whatever’s easiest, but then we get the bill later and the bill is extremely high.”
The tendency for a sick or injured patient, Brenneke says, is to immediately go with the doctor’s planned treatment even if your insurance might be able to cover more or all of the cost, if you schedule the same treatment somewhere else.
“Lab work is going to be the same way," said Brenneke. "A lot of people don’t realize that their health insurance comes with maybe a certain lab that will cover their lab work at 100 percent.”
You have less control in the event of an emergency, but Brenneke says, scrutinizing what counts as an emergency can also go a long way in helping to cut costs.
“If you use the urgent care centers when their open for minor things such as a sprained ankle or strep throat, you’re going to save money, the insurance company is going to save money, and it all circles around to the total cost of insurance," said Brenneke.
Even the day of the week can save you money. When booking a procedure, Mondays and Fridays are most popular because they provide time to prepare or recover over the weekend. If it’s an option, you can save money by booking in the middle of the week.
Another way to avoid crippling debt is to avoid charging the cost of medical treatments to a credit card – ask if you can save money by paying case or if you can arrange a payment plan directly with the entity that you owe. That way, usually, you can avoid paying interest altogether.