Americans are not strangers to medical debt. In America the main cause of bankruptcy is medical debt, and Americans pay more for health care than in any other country in the world. If a person has health insurance, an unexpected medical bill can still be difficult to pay, and with no insurance at all, it can be impossible.
There is a reason that major insurance coverage includes preventative care. Preventative measures can keep a person healthy longer, can diagnose and treat illnesses before they are emergent, and can be maintained as outpatient care instead of costly inpatient care.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Your doctor probably has some recommendations to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Oftentimes patients listen as long as they’re in the office, and then go home and do what they want. Your physician makes recommendations based on the most current knowledge of the human body as well as your medical history. Tobacco and obesity is not good for anyone, and your doctor will likely recommend a change if you struggle with either. However, if diabetes, heart disease, or cancers are in your family history, you should definitely listen to your doctor regarding a healthy lifestyle.
If you are proactive about well visits, immunizations, and screenings, you will likely become aware of a health problem before it becomes a disaster. Early detection of major illnesses can result in lower cost treatment to ‘maintain’ a condition instead of treating an emergent situation. For instance, detecting breast cancer early can mean a lumpectomy instead of a lumpectomy, chemo, radiation, and a lengthy hospital stay. Detecting pre-diabetes can mean lifestyle changes to reverse it instead of a costly regimen of insulin, expensive equipment, and possible hospitalization.
Learn to Take Care of Yourself
Modern Americans have a very fast-paced lifestyle. We rarely slow down to take care of ourselves or listen to our body. The first time we notice something “off” about our body, we run to the doctor or emergency room. This isn’t always necessary. Many viruses can be treated at home using over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and self care. Emergency rooms should be used for emergencies, and if you avoid the ER and simply call your doctor instead, you can avoid a big medical bill.
Preventative care is the best way to avoid life-threatening or life-altering illnesses. However, planning ahead can save you money as well. Health insurance is a necessity in this country. Everyone should have health coverage, whether through low-income state programs or private policies. Health insurance can mean the difference between life and death in an emergent situation. Too many American adults are avoiding care because they don’t have the money. Too many children miss immunizations and well check-ups because parents cannot afford the copay for a single visit.
Health Savings Account
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is often offered by an employer to cover medical costs not covered by insurance. If your employer does not offer an HSA, you can still open one to help with medical costs--as long as you have a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). When you set up an HSA, you can do so through your own bank or another financial institution. The money you set aside in the HSA is only for medical use, and is pre-tax, so removing it for another purpose carries a penalty (much like a 401k and similar funds).
When you do what you can to prevent medical bills, and plan ahead to avoid accumulating medical debt, you can live easier. You won’t have to avoid medical care if it becomes necessary, and you won’t be afraid of bankruptcy.