I have spent a bit of time recently writing about how to determine what type of health insurance plan best suits our needs based on how much healthcare we use. While thinking about this I discovered that who I thought I was is really different from who I really am.
If asked, I would say that I am an infrequent user of healthcare. With a chronic condition I do visit my primary care doctor twice a year for blood tests and I take a couple of generic prescriptions. This is hardly the makings of a frequent user.
My preventive visits fall well within the benefits of the federal preventive and wellness legislation, so my costs should be minimal. I do not visit emergency rooms or urgent care centers and I do not have ongoing visits to specialists, so I should fall into the minimum use group. I consider myself a very healthy person.
And yet, as I went to my primary care doctor today for a sinus infection, I had to admit that only two months ago I had bronchitis after a trip north. I also had to add my recent visit to the podiatrist to my “minimal use” list. Thank goodness I have terminated my tennis career because I remember years of cortisone shots, MRIs on my knees, knee braces with metal hinges and several visits a year to the orthopedic doctor for shoulder and elbow issues. Now when my husband harasses me about not being on his tennis team I can claim financial duress: I can’t afford the injuries I sustain to play at the level that I choose to.
I share all this to encourage us to look very closely at our actual annual use of medical services as we prepare to make our open enrollment choices. Just because we are “healthy” does not mean we do not have claims that can add up if we are in the wrong plan. Please be careful about picking a high deductible plan with few to no copays for office visits and prescriptions without making sure that we are truly good candidates for that type of plan.
Even if our wellness visits fall within the federally legislated “rich” benefits, beware that there may be parts of the treatment that fall outside of those benefits and apply to our deductibles. If we rarely visit our primary care doctor we may not yet have experienced that lab work is now unbundled and billed separately to our deductible.
We should each take a little bit of time with a yellow pad and a list of what our medical bills have been this year. If we do not keep records of where we have been and what we have spent I suggest that we add this accounting to our list of New Year’s resolutions. Reconstruct 2015 as well as possible, but make a plan to document all healthcare costs in 2016. Our long term budgets will benefit tremendously.