You don’t have to go far in the United States to find someone complaining about the price of healthcare. No matter what you think the solution is, the problem is clear: We’re getting ripped off. That’s why one out of every five Americans has medical debt that has gone into collections. Fortunately, there are steps we can take as individuals to fight back against astronomical costs. On this episode of How To Money, Matt and Joel talk with investigative journalist Marshall Allen, author of Never Pay The First Bill: And Other Ways To Fight the Healthcare System and Win, about the insidiousness of healthcare costs. What he’s found in his fifteen years covering healthcare and health insurance is that the system is often providing care we don’t need, overcharging for the care we get, and sometimes just making costly mistakes that we have to pay for. But with a little know-how and initiative, we can protect ourselves from a system designed to wring every dollar out of our wallets.
The “main thesis” of Marshall’s book is simply that we’re paying more and more every year for health care and getting less in return. The data shows that our health system is overpriced and wasteful, and once we understand that “there’s no justification for these high healthcare costs….it gives you the conviction you need to push back.” Marshall is incredibly passionate about this subject, and it comes through as he talks fluidly about everything from various healthcare insurance plans we should be looking at, ways to shop around for the best prices on scans or lab tests, and questions we should ask our doctors to make sure we’re not getting care we don’t need – for example, it’s not necessary to be X-rayed every time you go to the dentist.
Those are all great ways to prevent medical debt, but what about if the bill has already arrived? Marshall has tons of tips for that fight, too. First of all, make sure you ask for an itemized bill from the hospital you went to. The systems they use for medical records are often outdated, and it’s very common for mistakes to be made; he once received a bill with a mysterious $175 charge on it he couldn’t account for. When he called the doctor’s office to ask, their billing department couldn’t figure out what it was for either! They removed the charge – but if he hadn’t looked, he would have paid $175 for nothing. They might also just be overcharging you for care you do receive – make sure you’re getting a fair price. There are reliable ways to fight back with your insurance provider if they deny coverage as well, and if your medical debt has already gone into collections, that might actually be good news. And finally, never forget the power of small claims court. Listen to the episode for all this important advice from Marshall Allen on How To Money.
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