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Are Your Health Care Choices Costing You?

When a sudden illness or injury strikes, do you have a plan of action? Are you aware of treatment options available to you? Having basic knowledge of medical resources is crucial to your physical and financial well-being. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “health proficiency is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

Unfortunately, only 12 percent of adults meet this requirement. Most of the general population is operating at a deficit when it comes to their health care needs and how to get them met in the most cost-effective way possible. 

Imagine it’s a busy weeknight and you’re at home preparing dinner. You’re exhausted, but you promised the kids you’d make their favorite meal. While chopping ingredients, you get distracted and cut your finger. The appendage is intact, but you may need stitches. What do you do?

Most people would head straight to the emergency room. It’s an easy and convenient choice, but not necessarily the right one. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members visited the emergency room 672,000 times in 2016. Of those visits, 44 percent were avoidable, meaning they were non-life-threatening cases.  

A more informed member might opt for a more affordable alternative such as an urgent care center. You’d receive the same vital treatment for a fraction of the cost. Studies show individuals with limited health literacy use more emergency services and are hospitalized at a higher rate. With the average emergency room claim hovering at $1,368, it’s a high price to pay.

Unfortunately, the buck doesn’t stop at the ER. Lack of knowledge can also lead to higher fees from your primary care doctors. In a recent survey of 2,106 U.S. physicians, most believe that over-treating patients is a common practice. That means ordering unnecessary tests and procedures that lead to greater out-of-pocket costs.

When it comes to your care, education is key. Health literacy empowers you with a clear understanding of your options and how they’ll affect your bottom line. Don’t be afraid to research and ask questions about your care or where to go for it. 

If you’re a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Blue Care Network member, take advantage of these tools when you’re faced with a non-emergency illness or injury. 

  • 24-hour Nurse Line connects you with registered nurses to discuss at-home treatments for minor ailments. You can also inquire about surgeries, tests, or chronic conditions. 
  • Blue Cross Online VisitsSM provide instant access to U.S. board-certified doctors and therapists. A medical consultation is just a phone call or video chat away. 

Learn more about the importance of health literacy by visiting these blog posts:

 

Photo credit: ijeab

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