A friend of mine posted on Facebook today, "I've maxed out my health insurance deductible, in-network bills are on them now." What an interesting state of affairs when we're tempted to congratulate someone for being unwell enough to warrant full payment for health care costs. My only fear is that we're in May. What if they hit their maximum annual benefit? What then?
Since I've been back from England, I've been nickel and dimed for co-payments and deductibles. I've submitted claims for reimbursement and waited, and waited, and waited for those checks. Even with "good" insurance, one still has to have a significant amount of cash on hand to receive healthcare in this country.
The sad thing is that this is a luxury problem. So many people have no insurance at all.
What if I didn't have that money up front? Would I put off seeking care for some things? Probably I would. What if I put seeking care off for so long that I wound up in an urgent or emergent medical situation? It would cost the insurance company a lot more in that instance. It would also cost me a lot more too!
These payment challenges are not foreign to those of us in private practice. We often have to devote significant time and resources to billing and collection. If we don't accept insurance, our pool of potential clients is perpetually shrinking as the economy continues on its jobless recovery. How many patients elect not to seek a physical therapist's help or rely on the trainer at the gym instead? How many people could we prevent from injuring themselves or hasten their recovery if they didn't have to weigh the value of our services against their other needs?
Are we being penny-wise and pound-foolish with our approach to financing healthcare? I believe we are.