Medical emergencies are a hassle. Not only is a visit to the emergency department expensive, it is an expense that is out of the budget because obviously the emergency was not planned. This is why the phrase “health is wealth” was coined.
If people are healthy, they can work on being healthy. If they evade any medical emergency, then the money that could have been used for the medical emergency can be added to the wealth. So people should always be mindful about their health, unless it’s a medical emergency. In the latter case, one should just manage the medical emergency that best way he can in order to make the situation affordable.
Here are some tips on how to manage a medical emergency affordably:
Set aside an emergency fund
A lot of people are used to living in the moment, hence, an emergency fund is not something they consider. Many perceive medical emergencies to be something that only happen to other people, never to themselves. As a result, they never bother to set aside funds for it. This is a simple analogy: $100 < $1,000. You can manage $100 if you force yourself too. But $1,000 is money you can’t afford to part with. According to reports, on the average, emergency department bills reach over $1,200. So if you met an accident and rush yourself to the emergency department, chances are you will be billed at least $1,000. That’s a large fraction of your income you can’t part with. But if you set aside $100 a month, in just 10 months, you already have $1,000. Besides, it is highly unlikely that you will get a medical emergency every month—not impossible but the probability is low.
But then again, this is America. Personnel from the emergency department will not turn away a patient just because he doesn’t have $1,000. You will still get the help you need in an emergency department even if you can’t afford the bills. But you have to settle it through instalment basis, depending on how much you can afford in a month. If you have an emergency fund, then you won’t need to pay in instalments.
Emergency department vs. urgent care services
There are a lot of myths involved in emergency department services. As already mentioned, sometimes people can get emergency department services for free on the night you needed to be taken care of. But you are still going to pay the bill, which could amount to as much as $1,000 depending on your situation. But what most Americans don’t understand is that emergency departments should be utilized only for emergencies—not the simple headaches or sore throat. For minor pain issues, you should just drop by the urgent care services around your area—guaranteed there are a number of them.
Urgent care services will only bill you around $60. That’s way low compared to what the emergency department will bill you. Of course, if you are bleeding from a vehicular accident, for example, then that would be a situation for the hospital to handle. But if you are just experiencing a stomach bug, then get yourself seen by the medical personnel of an urgent care clinic.
Here are some medical situations that urgent care clinics can easily handle:
- Allergy symptoms
- Animal bite
- Asthma attacks
- Back pains
- Cough, colds and flu
- Cuts and scrapes
- Ear aches and ear infections
- Head lice
- Nasal congestion
- Pink eye and other eye infections
- Sore throat
- Urinary tract or bladder infections
There is a problem with information people have about emergency department and urgent care clinics. This is not about urgent care being better than the emergency department—this is just about being practical. Why should you pay $1,000—even if you have to do so in a year or two—when you can spend just a fraction of that amount? Another practical reason people should submit to urgent care services for minor medical issues is the time. According to a study, people spend around four hours waiting to be taken care of in emergency departments—unless you are dying of course. In an urgent care facility, the average waiting time is just 20 minutes.
When you go to an urgent care clinic, you can actually save 90% of emergency department expense and cut 92% of waiting time.
But there are medical issues that urgent care services cannot handle because of the lack of equipment and sometimes the lack of medical experts. Here are some major medical issues that you should only rush to the hospital:
- Broken bones
- Chest pain
- Head trauma
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe trouble breathing
- Sudden loss of vision, numbness and difficulty in breathing or speaking
- Vomiting blood
Now that you have some sort of checklist, you are already educated as to when you should rush yourself to the emergency room or the urgent care clinic.
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
This adage is practical and true. Getting a regular check-up will help prevent costly medical situations. You have to be aware of your body and how it works. Taking vitamins will surely help keep your resistance in check. Everybody knows that eating right is the best kind of prevention. It is not bad to indulge but everything has to be taken in moderation. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will keep diseases away.
The same goes to everyday activities. If one is careful, accidents can be averted. Driving safely is one; not driving while having alcohol in the system is another. Of course, accidents happen every day. There are situations that cannot be avoided. But there are many accidents that can be avoided.
Know your rights
Most employers have an annual check-up for their employees. Take advantage of the company’s annual medical and dental check-up. Know the coverage of the health insurance provided by the company. What are the preventive plans you can avail yourself of? Case in point, a few companies provide free polysomnography or sleep study. This doesn’t sound like an urgent medical activity to undertake but if it is offered in the company, then it’s an advantage you should be willing to undergo.
Learn the Affordable Care Act. The law, which is also known as Obamacare, is generally pro-women. There are provisions on women’s health care that were not previously mandated by the government. If you are a woman, you should take advantage of it.
Make a record of advanced estimates
Now this is taxing and unpopular. People are generally reactive so this might be something that people don’t want to go through. Having a record of medical procedure estimates means leg work. It entails calling medical clinics are emergency departments to know how much a typical procedure costs i.e. surgery (for whatever organ), colonoscopy, X-ray and many others. This way, you will know how much your emergency fund should be.
It also helps that you have a record of the prices of most pharmacies. This way, if you need a particular medicine, you would know which pharmacy has the cheapest product. Also, there is nothing wrong with generic medicines. They will not be in the market if they are not safe. Branded medicines are only expensive because of the marketing it involves. So you might as well have a record of stores that carry generic medicines.
Study your billing statements
In case you are already in the middle of a medical emergency, there is nothing much you can do but get the bill and pay for it. But when you do get the bill, scrutinize it as much as you can. Billing statements are done by people, who are prone to commit mistakes. So always be ready to go over the details of the statements with a calculator at hand. Even if the medical personnel are already looking at you like an eyesore, don’t mind them. Be meticulous because this involves money that you could have used for other purposes.
Don’t use your credit card
Once you swipe your medical expenses on your credit card, it becomes a credit card debt rather than a medical debt. The government is more forgiving than the bank or credit card companies. With medical expenses, people can be more forgiving if you can show that you are really hard-pressed into paying them.
All these tips in managing a medical emergency affordably boil down to knowledge. You have to be aware of the nitty-gritty of medical stuff—from the medical situation to the financial implications. You have to be educated about how the system works so you will be able to navigate the situation affordably.
According to a Bankrate poll, 28% of those surveyed fear that medical emergencies will deplete their savings. Another survey, this time by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, found that 20% of Americans have overdue medical bills in their credit report. The latter can be neutralized if you are well-informed about managing medical emergencies.