Even covered under a health insurance plan, the average American consumer can spend more than $1,000 on a single hospital stay. Here’s how to save money during your hospital stay.
Getting sick sucks; getting sick and having to stay the night at the hospital sucks even more. Facilities and amenities vary from hospital to hospital, and it’s a travesty when the hospital you’re staying at doesn’t even have chocolate pudding; however, when it comes down to it, the healthcare consumer cares more about the costs associated with a hospital stay than he or she cares about the quality of the food (pudding can wait).
Increasing Costs of Inpatient Care
While a large percentage of Americans wait impatiently about the future of their healthcare coverage, every person currently covered under some kind of health insurance plan worries about incessantly rising healthcare costs. Especially in recent years, inpatient care has become a larger concern for American consumers as insurers shift a greater proportion of costs to patients. In a study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor found that hospital stay costs grew at a rate of 6.5 percent per year between 2009 and 2013, with average out-of-pocket spending per stay jumping from $738 to $1,013.
In 2017 and beyond, those inpatient costs are only expected to grow as the future of healthcare regulation remains up in the air. Sure, hospital stays aren’t common for most people, but if and when the American healthcare consumer faces a situation where it’s needed, how can they make sure to minimize the costs associated with it?
Ways to Decrease the Costs of Your Hospital Stay
In a recent Medium post, Kaiser Health News editor-in-chief Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal covered the various ways patients can remain vigilant during inpatient care and save money. A former practicing physician and a former New York Times correspondent covering health, Dr. Rosenthal has written extensively about the American healthcare system. Her new book An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back describes the evolution of America’s healthcare system into a nearly $1.7 trillion business.
According to Dr. Rosenthal, there are five keys ways through which you can save money during your hospital stay:
1. Don’t Take a Private Room
“If you are assigned to a private room, make it clear that you did not request it and would be happy to occupy a room with another patient.”
According to Dr. Rosenthal, hospitals are overstocked with private rooms. The problem, though, is that most health insurance policies don’t provide coverage for these. So, if they offer, simply say “no”.
2. Specify That You Want Only In-Network Care
“In the pages of admitting documents you’ll have to sign, there is inevitably one concerning your willingness to accept financial responsibility for charges not covered by your insurer. Before you sign, write in ‘as long as the providers are in my insurance network.'”
This is crucial. If you don’t add this kind of limited consent clause, you risk paying any and all out-of-network costs. While it doesn’t provide any guarantee, Dr. Rosenthal adds that it could, at the very least, give you a basis from which to argue at a later date.
3. Clarify the Terms of Your Hospital Stay
“Hospitals can keep you for up to three days (two midnights) on observation status. Though you will be in a hospital bed, you will be considered an outpatient and be responsible for outpatient co-payments and deductibles, which are generally far higher than those for an inpatient stay.”
Especially if you’re covered under Medicare, being under observation technically isn’t part of coverage, so in most cases it’s better to go the inpatient route.
4. Identify and Take Note of Every Person That Appears at Your Bedside
“Beware the nice doctor who stands at the foot of your bed each day and asks if everything’s going OK[…]There’s an epidemic of drive-by doctoring on helpless inpatients. These medical personnel turn up whether you need or want them, with the intent of charging for their services. Remember that you can say no. Everything done to you or for you in the hospital will be billed at exorbitant rates.”
Dr. Rosenthal emphasizes the importance of noting each and every person that ends up at your bedside – literally writing down the names of each person, their reason(s) for being there, and who sent them. A little bit paranoid, yes, but well worth the hospital stay savings in the end.
5. Refuse Unnecessary Supplies or Equipment
“If the hospital tries to send you home with equipment you don’t need, refuse it, even if it’s ‘covered by your insurance.'”
Hospitals try to use these as opportunities to bill your insurance for $300 slings or for some other ridiculously priced supply or equipment that you can buy elsewhere for $20.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Healthcare, Inc. and HealthCare.com.