STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE: Americans struggling to afford healthcare

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Americans are dealing with the rising cost of healthcare. Both low-income and middle-class are struggling to afford services.

"Medical debt is the number one reason that most people actually file for bankruptcy," explained Jeanne Fisher, certified financial planner with ARGI Financial Group.

13 News Reporter Kelly Dean reports as part of our 'Struggling to Survive' series, in regards to healthcare. Dean not only spoke with folks struggling, but discloses her own personal struggle with a recent medical bill.
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It's the best case medical scenario, compared to some.

Chills, body aches, a sandpaper of a throat, these were all signs pointing to strep, or worse -- the flu.

Fast forward to an urgent care visit that only lasted under an hour, and now I'm dealing with an outrageous bill from a local clinic that was in-network of my insurance.

"Is this $665 the best price you guys can quote me for my visit?" I asked the billing department over the phone.

At this point, I'm thinking, 'What's even the point of paying for insurance? What other options do I have? Am I the only one that feels this way?'

"I mean I can remember reading that letter because of 'blah blah blah' … no more health coverage. Where do I go? What do I do?" said Paula Evans.

"If your income is low and your finances are low, it does make a big differences," said one patient and the Med Center's Community Dental Clinic.

It's clear that I'm not alone. Whether you're low income or middle-class, many consider healthcare in the U.S. insufficient.

"I don't think it's affordable for many people. If you compare what we pay for health insurance premiums and health insurance services relative to many other developed countries we are significantly more expensive," said Fisher.

Luckily, here in Bowling Green, there are other options you might not know about for both the under-insured and uninsured.

"The clinic saved my life, they really did," said Evans, patient and board member at Fairview Community Health Center.

"As a safety net provider providing family practice primary care services our mission is to be a medical home," explained Chris Keyser, Fairview Community Health Center. "Our fees are comparable to the prevailing market. We offer a sliding fee scale."

Fairview Health Community Center saw over 12,000 patients last year, and 10 percent of those patients had commercial health insurance.

"The cost of commercial insurance is high, deductibles can be high, so there are still burdens to access to healthcare," said Keyser.

If you are like me, and stuck with high medical bills, there are things you can do to plan.

Fisher advised that individuals have a separate savings account that you put a little money away every month.

You can save this money in a Health Savings Account, and many insurance companies provide separate debit-like cards for. If not, a separate account with your bank would work just fine as well.

"If you have a high deductible health plan paired with an HSA. The HSA is the perfect account for that type of thing," said Fisher.

Financial experts also say you can actually negotiate with hospitals or doctors offices on bills.

"Ask for a prompt pay discount, " said Fisher. "Sometimes if you pay everything right off the bat with cash you can actually get a discount on the services rendered."

It's also important to ask for an itemized bill from the doctor's office, Fisher says.

I actually found this website FairHealthConsumer.org. You type in the codes from that itemized bill which indicate the service given. The website then estimates how much a service should cost based on rates in your area.

"Another thing is to shop where you get your services done because the prices can vary," said Fisher.

After hearing so many concerns, many say the bottom line is that health care is complicated, it's expensive, it's a burden. All we can do budget, look for other options and try to plan as best as possible.

"Families are maybe just one or two paychecks away from really being in crisis," said Keyser.

Fairview Community Health Center says they will never turn anyone away. Their goal is treat patients "from womb to tomb" as they are a primary care office. They also have a prenatal clinic, and a clinic for adult care.

Their brand new facility is being built right now on Natchez Trace and will open in the spring.

Next in our 'Struggling to Survive' series, Sean Baute will cover the available work force.



 
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