Posted by: bkivey | 22 February 2010

How to save on medical care

The cost of medical care is much in the news again with the chattering class offering every conceivable take on how to reduce health care costs. These efforts are doomed to failure until people start making the distinction between health care, health care insurance, medical care, and medical care insurance. The terms are not interchangeable, but policy-makers and politicians would like you to believe that they are. That said, I know a certain way to reduce the personal cost of medical care.

Pay for it yourself.

This is not a radical concept. In fact, not so very long ago it was the way most people paid for their medical care, as pointed out by Thomas Sowell and almost no one else. Because the political class is generally interested in keeping their jobs above all else, they have convinced a large majority of people that payment for medical care is something that a) is not an individual responsibility and b) can only be done by government (i.e. politicians). These ideas are reinforced every election cycle when the politicos trot out every case of extreme medical hardship they can find and present those cases as ‘normal’. The fact is that for most of the population routine medical care, even emergency care, is affordable.

I speak from experience when I say that if you pay cash for medical services, you usually get an immediate 30% discount. Let me repeat that. If you pay cash for medical services you will receive a 30% discount. This discount applies whether you pay the bill all at once or on a payment plan. Providers don’t call it a cash discount, though, they play word games and call it the ‘uninsured discount’, as if not having medical insurance makes you somehow inferior to those who do, but the effect is the same. The fact that a third of your medical bill disappears if you pay cash speaks volumes about the cost of bureaucracy in the medical industry.

Much was made of a high-profile radio personality paying his own medical bill when he visited the hospital in December 2009. A lot of people held this up as an example how ‘the rich’ could afford medical care when ‘the working class’ could not. I am not rich but I have had to visit the emergency room with a number of traumatic injuries. In about a third of the visits I had health care insurance, the rest of the time, not. In no case was I turned away and in every case I was treated in a professional manner. The times I was without insurance I worked out payment plans with the hospital and attending health care professionals and I paid the bill. Paying your own medical bills is an option available to anyone and if you are between the ages of 25 – 45 it is very likely to be cheaper than making monthly insurance payments. Paying for your own medical care also works to keep hospitals honest, because you better believe that you’ll be checking your bills with a fine-tooth comb. I have saved hundreds of dollars by disputing hospital charges. $12 for an aspirin? Really?

So if you want to lower your medical bills pay for them yourself. It works, and it’s an option open to nearly everyone.

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