Although the Affordable Care Act made it possible for nearly 20 million Americans to access healthcare, medical expenses can be a huge financial burden regardless of whether you have coverage or not. In fact, a 2014 survey found that 20% of insured people in the U.S. still struggle to pay their medical bills. There are undoubtedly several reasons for this hardship, but one big contributing factor is out-of-network treatment. Unfortunately, many patients don’t know they’re receiving care from an out-of-network doctor until they receive a surprisingly steep bill in the mail.
For these patients, the monetary difference can be huge. While the total cost of treatment might be roughly the same between in-network and out-of-network doctors -- say, $300 -- you’ll receive far more coverage when you see a doctor in your network. Not only will your insurance company cover about $140 of that $300 treatment, but you’ll also receive an $85 discount applied for a negotiated rate with your insurer. That means you’ll have to pay only $75 out of pocket. But if you go outside your network, you won’t get that discount; instead, you’ll be on the hook for $160.
To make matters worse, out-of-network healthcare providers don’t always have patients’ best interests at heart (when it comes to their payment, that is). In a recent analysis of more than 2 million emergency department visits, researchers found that more than one-fifth of patients who visited ERs within their health insurance networks were actually treated by out-of-network physicians. To their surprise, these patients were stuck with charges that were not covered by their insurer. On top of that, the study found that these out-of-network ER doctors were paid nearly 2.7 times more than in-network doctors were paid for the exact same services.
In addition, patients in certain states have to deal with what’s known as balance billing -- the healthcare provider’s ability to bill a patient for the entire unpaid balance (rather than just a copay or deductible) after the insurance company pays for its portion. Between 2012 and 2015, balance billing complaints in Texas rose by an astounding 1,000%. Some providers will even ask an ER patient to sign a document that states they’ll pay the full healthcare fee, regardless of what their insurer tells them they owe, which essentially creates a new contract that overrides their insurance policy. If a patient refuses to sign, the provider may refuse to treat them.
Even if the quality of care remains constant between in-network and out-of-network providers, the costs could not be more different. It may be tough in an emergency healthcare situation, but remind yourself to make sure your provider is truly within your network. By taking this extra precaution, you’ll save yourself from severe financial stress.
Influenza can be a major concern for many families during this time of year, and for good reason. According to the Centers For Disease Control, "millions of people become ill, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu every year." Simply put, the flu isn't just a bad cold. It's much more dangerous than minor illnesses, especially for children. So what can you do to protect the ones you love this season? Follow the top tips below.
Get your vaccine now
Although there are a lot of misconceptions about the flu vaccine, getting your yearly vaccination is the best thing you can do to prevent this illness. Contrary to popular belief, getting vaccinated will not make you come down with the flu. And it's never been easier to get your immunizations. You can see one of the 20,000 physicians who practice at urgent medical care centers nationwide to receive your vaccination. Even young children can (and should) get the flu shot every year to avoid the risk of infection.
Make hand-washing a habit
Another great way to prevent coming down with a fever? Keep your hands clean. Frequent hand-washing can help you avoid the flu and other diseases. Even if the process doesn't kill germs, it gets them off your hands. And considering how many surfaces and body parts we touch during the day, interrupting the path of viruses and bacteria can help keep your family safe. Encourage your children to wash their hands often by singing songs together. Not only will this make them look forward to washing their hands, but the length of the song will also ensure they don't speed through it.
Clean off technology, desks, and other spaces
In conjunction with cleaning your body, you'll also need to clean the items and locations your family tends to frequent. Your desk at work and electronic devices can harbor all kinds of gunk and germs, while your child's toy box and school supplies might be infested with gross contaminants. Unless you want to head to an urgent medical care center for treatment after someone gets sick, be proactive about cleaning these spaces and items regularly. Equip your kids with bacteria-removing wipes for school and keep a bunch for your desk at work. You can even invest in devices that will safely clean your iPads and smartphones. Make cleaning into a fun weekend activity where everyone plays an important part.
Stay active and get plenty of sleep
You and your family can boost your immunity by living a healthier lifestyle overall. Getting a good amount of regular exercise and plenty of sleep will serve you well in all areas, but particularly when it comes to staving off diseases. When you exercise, the increased blood flow will move white blood cells around the body and can help you fight infections. Getting more sleep allows your body to heal and gather strength to fight off infections, too. And of course, eat plenty of nutritious fruits, vegetables, and grains. If you do happen to come down with the flu, sleep and nutrition can also be part of an effective treatment (though they are not substitutes for medications recommended by your doctor).
This flu season, help protect your loved ones by following these tips. And if you do experience flu-like symptoms, be sure to head to your local urgent medical care center for flu treatment. Your urgent medical care staff can provide you with ways to reduce the severity of your symptoms and even reduce the length of your illness, in some cases.
It can be very scary when you or someone you love starts having difficulty breathing. You may start to panic, thinking that there's nothing that can be done to help. In turn, your panic can make the situation even worse. That's why it's important to remember that there could be many reasons as to why this is happening -- anything from stress to the weather could be a reason why one has difficulty breathing.
Even though it can be terrifying in the moment, you need to try to relax. A big reason people experience difficulty breathing is because of stress or anxiety. Panicking isn't going to help the problem, regardless of what the problem is. If you take a moment and tell yourself to calm down, everything will start to go smoother. Taking the right steps to try and control your breathing may help significantly.
That being said, doing nothing can also be dangerous. If the shortness of breath does not quickly go away after a period of rest, then there may be a more serious health issue at hand. That means it's time to visit a nearby urgent care clinic or the emergency room. There are about 9,300 urgent care centers currently open across the United States, thousands more emergency departments, and about 50 to 100 new urgent care centers open up each and every year. Keep in mind that if you are the one suffering from shortness of breath or dizziness, you may need to enlist a friend or family member to safely transport you.
If going to an emergency room or urgent care center is the best option for you, make sure that you arrive prepared with a few things. Before you head out the door, write down all of the medications you are currently taking. This will ensure that you don't forget anything you take when the doctor asks you what medications you are on. Also, create a list of allergies. It's likely that the doctor will want to give you some medications, but it's important for them to know what you can and can't have.
It's also extremely important to bring your insurance card. If you don't have your insurance card, it'll be hard for you to get charged according to your specific plan. Lastly, if you don't have your photo identification, there's a high chance that you will not be able to be seen. Having your ID is the most important thing that you need to bring with you to your visit. In short, make sure you're prepared for your visit so that your time at the doctor goes as smoothly as possible.
While there are a few things you can try on your own to resolve this medical situation, don't hesitate to visit a health center for immediate care. If these spells are happening regularly, it's likely that the doctor will also recommend long-term changes to your lifestyle. If you smoke, consider quitting. If you're overweight, try making moves to become more fit.
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