It’s no secret that health care costs have been on the rise for quite some time. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that deductibles for employer-provided healthcare plans rose 9 percent this year alone, and deductibles have increased seven times faster than wages over the last decade. Is it any wonder that 43 percent of working age adults admit to skipping doctor visits because of the cost? (Source: CNN).
Concerns about out-of-pocket expenses have caused many Americans to ration out their medical care, often skipping follow-up visits and only seeing the doctor for serious emergencies and illnesses. While neglecting recommended follow-up appointments may save money up front, it can be a costly decision in the long run.
Follow-up visits with your specialist or primary care provider cover a wide range of services, including:
- Medical exams and vital signs
- Evaluation of symptoms
- Incision and wound care
- Suture removal
- Prescription refills
- Bloodwork or lab tests
- Imaging procedures
Follow-up visits are a crucial part of providing comprehensive care, particularly for patients with chronic illnesses. These appointments allow your doctor to build a complete picture of your health by identifying changes, evaluating the effectiveness of treatments and detecting potential problems before they become serious. Patients who are not consistent with follow-up visits face the risk of serious complications or hospitalization, both of which are far more costly than a routine office visit.
If concerns about medical expenses are preventing you from seeing your doctor as often as you should, it’s important to know that you have options. Here are a few tips that could make your doctor’s visits more affordable:
Call your insurance company – Verify with your insurance company that your doctor and facility are both in-network. This will guarantee you receive the maximum benefit from your insurance company.
Ask for an estimate – Your doctor’s office should be able to give you an estimate of their fees and what your out-of-pocket responsibility will be. If you’ve had surgery, your follow-up visits may be included in the surgery fee.
Make payment arrangements – Many offices will accept payments in monthly installments at no additional cost to the patient. Your doctor’s office may also offer discounts based on income or a one-time cash discount if your bill is paid in full.
Ask your doctor about less frequent visits – There may be some leeway in how often you need to see your doctor for follow-up visits. If it’s a struggle for you to make your appointments, ask your doctor if it’s possible to come in less frequently. Your doctor wants to see you healthy and would rather have you space out your visits (if possible) than not come in at all.