Higher deductibles are forcing some consumers to skip or postpone doctor’s visits because they are unable to afford the additional out of pocket costs.
Too many consumers only factor in the amount of the monthly premium and discount the importance of other criteria such as the cost of the copayments, prescription drugs and deductible. As more companies are increasingly shifting a larger percentage of health insurance costs to their workers, consumers need to examine all options.
Consumers are limiting their options when they only consider their monthly cost, said Nate Purpura, vice president of consumer affairs at eHealth.com, an online health insurance exchange based in Mountain View, Calif.
“They often overlook things like deductibles and copayments that come into play when they actually receive non-preventive medical care,” he said.
Since preventive medical care is “often received” without patients having to spend extra money, they might not comprehend how much the out-of-pocket costs will be until they are faced with an illness or injury.
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One major reason many people are not aware of how much physician’s visits and medical procedures cost is because they rarely go to the doctor, even for preventative care like annual checkups and physicals. A survey conducted in July and August of over 6,500 eHealth customers found that more than half of policy holders have not even used their coverage in the past year while 12% used their insurance only for preventive care. Another 35% of individuals used their coverage for non-preventive care and needed to pay for additional costs.
When consumers had to shell out extra money for prescription drugs and medical care, 35% said the costs were unanticipated and the average amount they spent for the year was $848. Other patients spent even more money on medication with 22% who paid over $1,000 out of pocket.
Consumers should expect to spend more money when they are being treated for an illness or injury that is not preventative care. The survey found that 91% of patients spent money in the form of deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance and out-of-network charges, and they spent an average of $2,380.
The fear that a medical treatment will exceed their budget has prevented many people from seeing a doctor. A February eHealth survey revealed that 62% of respondents were worried about “expensive medical emergencies” and 52% expressed concerns about “paying for health care.” If a medical emergency arose, 61% said they would likely have difficulty paying their deductible. While 38% of men said they opted out of going to the doctor to save money, 52% of women shared the same sentiment.
High deductibles are “scaring patients away” from medical care, said Linda Girgis, a family physician in South River, N.J. and member of Sermo, a global social media network for doctors. Too many patients are declining much needed appointments and necessary tests such as MRIs because of the costs incurred. Only last week, Girgis had a woman with diabetes cancel her follow-up appointment, because she chose to take her ill son to the pediatrician. Unable to afford both deductibles, she opted to delay her treatment.