Don't Let the Cost of Health Care Pin You Down

I walked into my martial arts studio one evening. It was a normal Wednesday on a normal workweek. Across the mat, I sat down next to one of the instructors and we talked about the plan for class that evening: kick drills, some cardio and a stretch cool down at the end.

I’d done this workout countless times and started kicking the target with relative ease. Suddenly I heard a snap, and I wasn’t able to lift my leg. The next morning I went to my doctor who sat me down and diagnosed me with acute bursitis of the hip. He wrote me a prescription for several months of physical therapy.

Walking out of the clinic to my car it hit me; I work for a health insurance company, but I didn’t know the first thing about my health care coverage. We’d never been properly introduced!

I’m relatively healthy and frankly have always selected a health plan with a low monthly premium. That type of plan typically has higher out-of-pocket costs, so I was stressing out. I remember thinking: How much will all of these physical therapy visits cost? If it’s a lot, can I still take that vacation I was planning later in the summer? Does my provider accept credit cards if I need to make payments? Are there other treatment options available? And, most important, will physical therapy even work?

In 2015, U.S. health care spending grew to more than $3 trillion. What’s more alarming is over the past 10 years, consumer spending on deductibles increased by over 200 percent. There are many reasons why consumers are paying more for their health care, but the sobering point is that I knew I was in for some potentially big medical bills.

As reality began to sink in, I felt lost, angry and a bit scared. I didn’t like feeling that I wasn’t in control and more so, I didn’t like the notion of having little influence over how much my treatment plan was going to cost. So, to take back some control and to better understand my options, I started doing some research on my condition and went to hap.org. I knew HAP had a Health Care Cost Estimator that recently launched online (in fact, launching this tool has been a big part of my job at HAP). I was excited to use it first-hand.

The Health Care Cost Estimator is a free online tool that’s available to many of our HAP members. To use it, just log in at hap.org and click on the “Health Care Cost Estimator” icon. I was able to use the tool to research alternative treatments for hip-related problems. And, these treatment options came with an estimated cost that was tailored to my personal insurance plan. My personal deductible and how much I’d already paid into it were automatically displayed in the tool. Also, I could see the costs for physical therapy and other treatments at different hospitals and clinics across HAP’s coverage area.

After I used the tool, I calmed down. I had information. I felt like I was back in control.

The next day I called my doctor and talked to him about the treatment plan he recommended. I used the cost and treatment data I received from HAP’s Health Care Cost Estimator. One of the things I learned from this tool was that most patients with a hip condition didn’t need as many physical therapy visits as my doctor had prescribed for me. So, I asked why the duration of physical therapy was so long. He said it was just a “standard practice” to prescribe it that way. After telling him what I learned and explaining to him that I was going to pay for a majority of this treatment from my own pocket, we worked together to shorten the treatment plan. I decided to use a dedicated physical therapy center that had a lower cost for the services I needed (that summer vacation was looking more and more possible).

I try to stay healthy by being active, eating right and by using plain common sense. I even use some of the articles on this blog to help me do that. But, accidents – or illnesses – happen. And the reality is you never fully know when or how you’re going to enter the health care system. However, we do have choices. We can choose where to go for care and how much to spend. And, to some degree, we can even influence and set our own course for treatment. Or, we can at least arm ourselves with the knowledge to have the right conversations with our doctors. As a HAP member, I feel better and more secure knowing I have tools like the Health Care Cost Estimator to guide my decisions. And, next time, maybe I’ll take the stretching part of the workout more seriously.

See related post: Getting to Know Our Health Care Cost Estimator


Categories: Get To Know Your Plan

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