Tackling the Roots of Medical Debt for Health Literacy Month

More than half of Americans said they fear getting surprise medical bills they can’t afford, and consumer advocates said one way to avoid them is to improve your knowledge of health. The task may seem daunting to many people overwhelmed by confusing insurance terminology, but Dr. Lauren Wilson, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Montana, says knowledge is power in health care.

She saw many families in emergency rooms forced to balance their medical needs with their checkbooks. “And sometimes in those times it’s not the time when you can really tackle what might be an inadequate insurance plan, which is why it’s important to spend time when selecting your diet and make sure it’s something that will work for you,” Wilson said.

60% of Americans said they’ve avoided or delayed medical care because of potential costs, but Wilson said learning the ins and outs of individual plans can ensure all families get the care they need. Registration open to health insurance schemes via the federal market begins November 1.

The health advocacy group Consumers for quality care urges people looking for new coverage or changing their current insurance plan to do their homework. Board member Mary Smith advises not to be lured by low prices alone. She said insurance plans with the lowest premiums often include high deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments. “There are also sometimes short-term, time-limited insurance plans,” Smith said. “They often exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions – including conditions that a person didn’t know they had or didn’t know required medical intervention.”

Smith said people with prescriptions for an ongoing medical condition should also avoid so-called co-pay accumulator programs, which can prevent a drugmaker’s coupons from being used in the within a patient’s maximum expenditure. On “healthcare.gov” or “CoverMT.org”, you can also find out if you qualify for a federal subsidy to help pay monthly premiums. Congress renewed grant funding through 2025.

(Photo licensed via Envato Elements)

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John A. Bogar