It’s important for every patient to ask questions before, during, and after a visit to the doctor’s office. Health care costs are on the rise, so asking questions and finding out how to spend – or not spend – your out-of-pocket health care dollars will keep you informed and help you manage costs.
So what are the right questions to be asking? Here are a few to note at your next doctor visit.
“Is this considered a preventive care service?”
Under the Affordable Care Act, many preventive care services are free if you have health insurance. Women’s health visits, vaccinations, and annual checkups may not cost you a cent out of pocket. However, not everything is free. For example, your doctor may order tests that are not considered covered preventive services, so you may be required to pay a copayment or bill that will count toward your annual deductible.
“Are you in my health insurance carrier and specific plan’s network?”
To avoid the surprise of an expensive bill, verify that your provider is in network.
Health insurance companies negotiate lower rates with a specific network of physicians and hospitals to help keep costs low. You can save money on out-of-pocket costs by staying within that network.
Asking “Do you accept my insurance?” isn’t enough; make sure that your health care provider accepts both your insurance carrier and the specific plan you chose. You can still visit a doctor that is out of your network, but you should expect to pay all or most of the bill, depending on your plan.
“Is this optional or highly encouraged?”
Physicians may suggest health screenings, procedures, or prescriptions for a variety of reasons, and it’s important to find out why. The rationale behind each part of your treatment is important – especially if it’s optional.
It’s always important to listen to your doctor’s recommendations, but to also to get the full story. Not taking the time to fully understand your treatment options to make an informed decision might be an expensive mistake, whether it’s a routine treatment or a major procedure.
And remember: If you are not happy with the answers your doctor provides, you have the right to find another doctor or seek different medical care. Contact your insurance carrier to help you find another doctor from your health plan’s network and verify what medical services are covered.