Short term health insurance….A horse (of course) or Mr. Ed?

It looks like a horse. It smells like a horse. It rides like a horse. It must be a horse, right? Well, maybe, unless it’s the Famous Mr. Ed. For those of you too young to remember, Mr. Ed was a talking horse who could only be heard by his owner, and was a bit of a troublemaker. He looked like a horse, but he didn’t behave like one.

I found myself thinking about him when I saw this sign posted at an intersection a few weeks ago. Health insurance is health insurance is health insurance, right? Not if you were Melissa.* read more

Is that what I said? That’s not what I meant! Now what? Part 2

You took the time to prepare for your visit with your doctor. You asked your doctor to explain her observations with words you understand, you told her what you thought you heard, and she confirmed it.

You request a copy of you medical record or log onto your patient portal a few days later, and read your doctor’s notes. You see an error, maybe your birthdate or your medications are wrong, or there’s something there you know you didn’t say, or the doctor didn’t say to you. And now it’s there in back and white. read more

Is That What I said? That’s not what I meant!

You might remember a children’s game from long ago called “Telephone:” Someone thought of a message and whispered it to the person next to them, who whispered it to the person next to them and so on. The last person would repeat what they heard out loud and it was always met with giggles and shouts because it rarely bore any resemblance to the initial message.

In effect any time we share information, there are two things in play: not just what we say, but also how the listener hears/interprets it. In theory it’s the responsibility of both parties to make sure that “communication,” a shared understanding, has occurred, but in the case of giving our medical history there are some very real barriers to that happening. read more

Health Insurance Open Enrollment: Trick or Treat

Some people think of October as Trick or Treat time; Patient Advocates see it as the kickoff of health insurance open enrollment for the coming year, whether employer-sponsored, individual, and/or Medicare.

It may not be as playful as donning a costume or carving a jack o’lantern, but approaching your open enrollment period with the right spirit can certainly help you from getting tricked the next year.

So you’re not in the dark:

  • Assess how much financial risk you feel comfortable with. This might be influenced by how much savings you have, how often you need healthcare, and especially your personality. Some of us are more inclined to take chances; some of us protect ourselves against every possible negative outcome we can.
  • Understand what health insurance is and isn’t. It doesn’t eliminate your risk of getting sick or hurt, and it doesn’t protect you from all financial risk if those things happen. Health insurance is a way to lessen your risk from the cost of illness and injury (which can be substantial), and how much it protects you depends on several things in your control.
  • Keep this rule of thumb in mind: When you look at your insurance options, the lower your monthly payment for insurance (the premium), the more out of pocket expenses you’ll incur if you get sick or hurt. In other words, it’s important to balance the monthly expense against what you can afford to lose overall. A lower monthly expense may not be the best overall financial choice for you.
  • Staying in the network for your insurance can be a bit like figuring out who’s really in that ghost costume at the party. It can be really confusing. But it may be the most important aspect of making your insurance work for you. If you’re changing plans from the previous year, and if staying with your doctors and hospitals are important to you, it’s critical that you check to see if they’re in network for a new plan.
  • Full disclosure: Virtually none of us (OK, I know a select few) actually read their full insurance contract until they have to. But if you don’t read anything else, it’s important to look carefully at the provisions for emergency care. If you never leave home, it may be less important for you, but many plans have coverage limits outside their geographic service area or special requirements for emergency care to be covered. This has important implications to consider if/when you’re traveling.

And if this all feels a bit too tricky, call us for a 15 minute consultation and we’ll help you put the light back in your open enrollment jack o’lantern. read more

Truth in Pharmaceutical Drug Advertising

Used with permission. Copyright: 18percentgrey / 123RF Stock Photo

There are Reasons to be Suspicious about drug ads on TV

Like many people I often stream TV on my own time. Some Sundays ago I realized that “Madame Secretary” was going to be airing real time in a few minutes so I decided to tolerate commercials I couldn’t fast forward through and experience network TV live. (Secret confession: I want to be Tea Leoni in my next life!)

While there are certainly commercials in streaming television, I must confess I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. During literally every break there was some kind of pharmaceutical advertisement (clearly the demographic for this show isn’t young healthy people), a drug for diabetes, a drug for irritable bowel syndrome, a drug for high blood pressure. Smiling people promised that the product being advertised was the best thing since sliced bread for their condition and might even help you lose weight. read more

Emergency

Emergency. Dictionary.com defines it this way: “a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action. “

In my healthcare experience lifetime, perhaps nothing has changed more than the role of the hospital emergency room. In my youth the hospital had two roles: caring for very ill or post-surgery patients needing nursing care until they could be released home, and attending to accidents (think someone getting their hand injured by machinery or being in an auto accident).

As a variety of things have changed in our healthcare system over the years, there are some common beliefs about emergency rooms that we should take a closer look at. read more