Don’t Be Afraid to Team Up with Your Doctor about Healthcare Costs

Los Angeles TimesHere is a fine story in the Los Angeles Times written by about the importance of talking with your doctor about your out of pocket medical costs.

Despite high medical costs topping Americans’ list of financial concerns, many of us have a hard time telling our doctors that the care they’re prescribing may break the bank.

As part of a recent awareness campaign called “I Wish My Doctor Knew,” the online health social network Inspire asked patients and caregivers what medical concerns they wish doctors better understood.

In more than 700 responses, about 20% dealt with insurance coverage, disability insurance coverage paperwork, and out-of-pocket medical costs.

“What we see every day in our online community, and through this campaign, is that patients don’t discuss fully with their doctors the financial toll of [their] disease,” said John Novack, Inspire’s communications director. “Many patients seem reluctant to bring it up at all … yet it’s a very real hardship and it certainly affects their quality of life.”

Ellen Robin of Oceanside, Calif., can relate. The 59-year-old healthcare contract manager has a chronic condition that led to a heart attack six years ago.

Since then, she says, she has collected a cabinet full of prescription drugs worth thousands of dollars. She abandoned most after her doctor told her to stop them — either because they didn’t work or caused unbearable side effects.

“Every time I get a prescription, I pay my co-pay of $30 or more,” she says. After a week or two, many times she’d have a bad reaction and her doctor would advise her to just stop taking it. “It’s a waste.”

Still, letting her doctor know didn’t come easy. “I do have anxiety about talking money with him,” Robin says.

She’s not alone. The financial strain of medical expenses is a tough conversation for many patients to initiate — despite the fact that high costs prevent millions of people from getting needed care.

A report by Families USA, a Washington healthcare advocacy organization, found that just over 1 in 4 adults with private insurance policies last year went without needed medical care because they could not afford tests, treatments, follow-up care and drugs.

One of the biggest causes of “not taking the medicines their doctor prescribed — or getting the tests their doctor ordered — is that patients can’t afford it,” says Duke University professor Dr. Peter Ubel.

“This deserves priority in the doctor-patient encounter,” Ubel says.

Experts offer a few recommendations for broaching the subject of money with your doctors.

(To read the rest of this article, please visit the Los Angeles Times.)

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