This Healthcare Mistake Cost Me $400 -- and It Was Completely Avoidable
- When you have health insurance, it's important to know what your coverage looks like.
- Check if your providers are in-network, or you might get charged more than you're expecting.
I've kicked myself many times over for this blunder.
A few years back, I needed some blood work to follow up on a health condition I've had for a while. It was a routine appointment -- one I'd done many times. But while that lab test had always been free in the past, this time it cost me $400. Here's why.
A big healthcare mistake
When you have health insurance, you have to follow your plan's rules. That means using in-network providers if your plan won't pick up the tab for out-of-network providers.
The problem, though, is that your provider list can change from year to year. When this incident happened, I'd just received a new insurance card from the same company and figured the only change was the new number on my card. I didn't realize that my in-network lab coverage had changed.
As such, when I went to follow up on the blood work prescription my doctor had given me, I headed to the lab I was used to using. I didn't realize that lab was no longer in-network and I needed to visit the lab down the road instead.
Long story short, because I used the wrong lab, I had to pay for my test. And instead of having that service covered in full, I had to pay $400.
It's easy to assume the providers you're used to will remain in network for as long as you have your insurance coverage. But that's not guaranteed. That's why it's a good idea to confirm your coverage at the start of each year. Had I taken that step, I'd have an extra $400 in my bank account.
Thankfully, I budget a fair amount of money for healthcare on a monthly basis, so having to spend $400 on a lab test wasn't a huge hardship for me. To be clear, it's more than what I normally spend for my tests, but it's not like I'd budgeted $0 and went from that to a $400 charge.
Still, what frustrates me is that, while some medical bills are just plain unavoidable, this wasn't one of them. Had I taken a few minutes to do my research, I would've realized that a small change would've saved me a bundle.
Nowadays, I don't make any assumptions about my insurance. Rather, I'll call and verify information when I need it, even if that means waiting on hold for a bit to speak to a live person.
I also make a point to put a little extra money into my flexible spending account (FSA). That way, if surprise medical bills pop up, I have added funds to cover them. And if I overfund my FSA (which has happened), I can pivot and stock up on healthcare supplies to spend down my funds instead of giving them up.
If you can't remember when you last verified your insurance coverage, it's a good idea to carve out some time to get the right information. It could save you hundreds of dollars on a single visit.
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