Free preventive care? Not exactly
Under the health care law, annual 'preventive care' is supposed to be free. I got a bill for $730.
This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.
Nobody likes being poked, prodded, or stuck with needles. But as I scheduled a physical last month, there was one thing that made me feel better about the whole thing. Even though I have a $5,000 deductible on my health insurance plan, for the first time in decades, I wouldn't be getting a bill.
That's because since September of last year, if you have health insurance (and your plan hasn't been grandfathered in) preventive care is free with no deductible or co-pay. From this July 10, 2010, press release posted at Healthcare.gov:
For new health policies beginning on or after September 23, 2010, preventive services that have strong scientific evidence of their health benefits must be covered and plans can no longer charge a patient a copayment, co-insurance or deductible for these services when they are delivered by a network provider.
You call this free?
I got my "free" physical last month. But a few days ago, the bills started coming in: $600 worth of "laboratory services," $70 for "radiology services," and $60 for "diagnostic services." Since this was obviously an error, I called my insurance company.
What did they say? That much of what constituted my preventive care wasn't covered by the new law.
Of the seven laboratory services (translation: blood and urine tests) performed, only three were theoretically covered: the urinalysis, cholesterol screening, and PSA screening. I use the word "theoretically" because even those tests weren't free. I was charged for them because, according to my insurance company, my doctor's office failed to properly code them when they were submitted.
I guess chest X-rays must not have enough "strong scientific evidence of their health benefits" to pass muster either, because that radiology service also wasn't covered, nor was the EKG I was given. As my insurance company pointed out, they don't fall into the category of routine preventive services as defined by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the government agency that decides exactly what preventive care insurance companies should be paying for.
Also not covered was the cost of drawing blood. Although the blood tests noted above are covered, according to my insurance company, you're on your own when it comes to the cost of extracting the blood.
Net result? The only cost my insurance company paid for my annual physical was $80 for the office visit.
While a lot of the expense of my physical wasn't covered, much of it was radically reduced by virtue of the discount I receive through my insurance provider. For example, while the lab work totaled $612, after the discount, it came to only $57.25. And I can go back to my doctor's office and ask them to recode and resubmit the covered tests, which would reduce the bill further. I also got a significant discount on the chest X-ray, reducing the price from $70 to $26.64, and my EKG went from $60 to $20. Post continues after video.
So the cost of my physical, while not free, was still negligible. Disappointing, but still money well spent.
I just wish someone had told me that my "free" physical wouldn't actually be free. Then maybe I could have discussed my options with my doctor, been prepared to see the bill and most important, I could have avoided a half-hour on the phone demanding an explanation from various representatives of my insurer.
Here's a healthy idea
If you're like me and have a high-deductible health plan, or are otherwise responsible for a lot of your health care costs, be aware that "free" preventive care isn't necessarily free. Before you schedule your next preventive visit to your doctor, visit this page of Healthcare.gov and see what the law actually covers. It's different for different ages and sexes.
Forewarned is forearmed. But free or not, don't skimp on preventive care. Unless you've got an extra one lying around, taking good care of the body you have is the most frugal thing you can do.
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:
You have to dig to find this info on your insurance providers website. It's hidden under multiple layers and sends you in circles.
And the HIGHEST PAID CEO in the Country is at McKesson (Pharma Co), makes a 131 million annually... WTF Only idiots don't know why Healthcare is so expensive... It''s the Insurance companies and Big Pharm driving it all, courtesy of our BOUGHT and PAID US Congressional
W h o r e s !!!! By the way one of the Top ten CEO's is United Health Care, also in the 100 million range.
If Obama really wanted to change something for the good of the insured he should have mandated all insurance copmpanies be non profit.No, if Obama REALLY wanted to lower the costs of health care, he would have told his trial lawyer lobby to stuff themselves and ordered tort reform! Author's doctor was ordering a plethora of addl tests to cover all the bases. i.e. save his own @$$.
I recently went to visit my 9 year old grand daughter and was going to take her for a fast food burger. Her response was - grandpa I don't eat junk food. Like father like son I guess, LOL. Oh, and if your doctor doesn't ask you why you think you might need that drug - find a different Doctor.
wait until socialized healthcare gets firmly entrenched...you think you're paying a lot now, just imagine the what the future holds...even less care at higher prices with more beuracracy.
The problem is that insurance companies dictate policy based on how much profit they can benefit by. Not based on you, or your health needs. I believe all insurance companies should be non-profit organizations.
If Obama really wanted to change something for the good of the insured he should have mandated all insurance copmpanies be non profit.
Realize that preventive care is based on age, health history and family history. If any of these have red flags they must be addressed. Preventive care for a 25 year old is much different than a 50 year old. I'm assuming this patient is older and required tests that would not be ordered for a younger patient (CXR, EKG, PSA).
This is where the dreaded "defensive medicine" dilemma occurs. If these tests are not done, based on indications to do them, then if anything happens to the patient (heart attack, lung tumor/COPD, prostate cancer) the attorney's have a field day.
Remember, you don't perform medicine, you practice medicine. Every single patient that walks into a doctors office is unique, with seperate and special circumstances. Evaluating, diagnosing and treating is different in each and every person.
The author seriously thought an EKG would be a covered preventative service? Lucky he didn't ask for an MRI to be performed along with the boat load of other "hey its my annual physical, so it must all be free!!" services. Its like going to a wedding reception: just because you got in the doors for free and get a salad and chicken doesn't mean its an open bar!
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