Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
Healthcare decisions can be complicated, especially when you see the price tag.
Deductibles and copays. What’s covered and what’s not covered. Taking time off from work for appointments… the financial needs of other people in your household.
Your bank account… the future…enough!
Making healthcare decisions can be hard, especially when you factor in the finances. In fact, the financial considerations may be what makes healthcare decisions so hard. Everything has a price tag attached to it. Leaving you feeling helpless as you watch the expenses adding up.
It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Living with a chronic condition can be stressful enough without having another reason to worry about money. But what can you do?
Tips to deal with healthcare costs
Here are some ideas to keep the stress manageable as you factor in the financial aspects of making healthcare decisions:
1. Get clear on what you’re worried about. In our current economic environment, many of us are walking around with “free floating anxiety,” that feeling that our economic security is at risk. Get specific with yourself on what’s bothering you. Concerns about job security? Debt? A major expense coming up? The starting place for looking for solutions is to first define the problem. (This is also a good way to avoid catastrophe-thinking.)
2. Do the numbers. Take a hard look at what you’re spending each week for medical-related expenses. Consider what expenses you might have in the near future. While all those numbers may not give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, at least you have a clear picture of what you’re dealing with. That’s another toward feeling more empowered. Ask for some help from the other people in your household who are involved in making financial decisions. After all, you’re a team.
3. Get informed. Connect yourself with resources you can tap into, including what might be available from the government. Some information-gathering might be in order here, on your own, or by reaching out to people who can give you advice. Sources might include the Web, your insurance company, and healthcare professionals like your local pharmacist. Find out about policies at your job related to sick leave and other health-related issues, as well as what benefits might be available, including financial counseling. Flood the fear with facts!
4. Ask your doctor about lower cost alternatives. Be upfront with your doctor about your financial concerns. Try to be specific regarding anything that is currently a burden, or what might be in the future. See if you the two of you can explore your options, which could include generic medications, alternative and lower cost treatments, less frequent and/or less expensive testing, clinical trials, and patient assistance programs. You might also want to talk to your doctor’s nurse, physician’s assistant, or billing manager to see if they have suggestions.
5. Watch your self-care. One way to help keep your healthcare costs as low as possible is to take good care of yourself. Maintain your diet and exercise plan. Stay compliant with your medications. See your doctor on a regular basis. While you may need to find ways to save money, maintaining your optimal health still needs to be a priority. Don’t slack off on the basics.
6. Reach out for support. Thinking about spending money can be scary. Fear has a way of interfering with the ability to think clearly which can, in turn, make it difficult to make decisions. If you have a decision to make about your paying for healthcare, review your options with your partner, another family member, or a friend you trust. Get an additional perspective on the financial considerations. As they say, two heads can be better than one.