August 11, 2022

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How to get rid of medical debt — or avoid it in the first place

Patients and the consumer advocates say there are things people should do to try to avoid, or navigate, the medical debt trap. Financial assistance is available, but it all requires self-advocacy.

Lori Mangum was 32 when apple-sized tumors sprouted on her head. Now — six years and 10 surgeries later — the skin cancer is gone. But her pain lives on, in the form of medical debt.

Even with insurance, Mangum paid $36,000 out-of-pocket, charges that stemmed from the hospital, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the pharmacy, and follow-up care. And she still has about $7,000 more to pay.

While she was trying to manage her treatment and medical costs, Mangum remembers thinking, “I should be able to figure this out. I should be able to do this for myself.”

But medical billing and health insurance systems in the U.S. are complex, and many patients have difficulty navigating them.

“It’s incredibly humbling — and sometimes even to the point of humiliating — to feel like you have no idea what to do,” Mangum said.

If you’re worried about incurring debt during a health crisis or are struggling to deal with bills you already have, you’re not alone. Some 100 million people — including 41% of U.S. adults — have health care debt, according to a recent survey by KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation).

But you can inform and protect yourself. NPR and KHN spoke with patients, consumer advocates, and researchers to glean their hard-won insights on how to avoid or manage medical debt.

“It shouldn’t be on the patients who are experiencing the medical issues to navigate this complicated system,” said Nicolas Cordova, a health care lawyer with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. But consumers who inform themselves have a better chance of avoiding debt traps.

That means knowing the ins and outs of various policies — whether it’s your insurance coverage, or a hospital’s financial assistance program, or a state’s consumer protection laws. Ask a lot of questions and persist. “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” said Cordova, “because sometimes you might get a ‘yes’.”

Even people with health insurance can land in debt; indeed, one of the biggest problems, consumer advocates said, is that so many people are underinsured, which means they can get hit with huge out-of-pocket costs from coinsurance and high deductibles.

Here is some practical advice about facing down medical debt, at every stage of care and after.

Before You Get Care

Get familiar with your insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs

Get the best insurance coverage you can afford — even when you’re healthy. Make sure you know what the copays, coinsurance, and deductibles will be. Don’t hesitate to call the insurer and ask someone to walk you through all the potential out-of-pocket costs. Keep in mind that you cannot make changes to your policy except during certain windows of time, such as open enrollment (typically in the fall or early winter) or after a major life event.

Sign up for public insurance if you qualify

If you’re uninsured but need health care, you might qualify for

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3 min read

HOUSTON – Texas Children’s Medical center has been named the 2nd-most effective pediatric medical center in the country, and the top selection for cardiology and pulmonology, in this year’s U.S. Information and Planet Report Best Children’s Hospitals rankings.

Texas Children’s enhanced on past 12 months, when it ranked as the 3rd-ideal pediatric medical center in the state. It also rated as the very best clinic in Texas for the 14th calendar year in a row.

“We are past thrilled with the most recent U.S. Information & Globe Report rankings that spot Texas Children’s Medical center next in the United States and initial in the state of Texas,” Mark A. Wallace, the hospital’s president and CEO, mentioned in a information release. “Consistent collaboration, newfound discoveries and remarkable individual treatment is what has brought us to wherever we are right now. I am exceptionally very pleased of this outstanding team and every little thing we have achieved with each other — and our promise to just about every loved ones is that we are just getting started.”

The Very best Children’s Hospitals rankings, introduced on Tuesday, are centered on information from 119 health care centers across the U.S. Texas Children’s is included on the Honor Roll, which acknowledges 10 pediatric hospitals that offer you a substantial level of care throughout several specialties.

Boston Children’s Hospital gained the top rated spot on the Honor Roll for the ninth year in a row, boosted by 1st-put rankings in 5 pediatric specialties.

Texas Children’s rated in all 10 of the pediatric specialties evaluated by U.S. News. The medical center rated to start with in cardiology/heart surgical procedures and pulmonology second in neurology, third in neonatology and nephrology fourth in cancer and gastroenterology fifth in diabetic issues/endocrinology and urology and eighth in orthopedics.

“I believe the most outstanding factor about Texas Children’s is that it has obtained a diploma of outstanding in every solitary specialty that we consider that is almost unparalleled,” said Ben More challenging, main of well being evaluation and controlling editor at U.S. Information. 

The Ideal Children’s Hospitals rankings are designed to help people discover the most effective care for small children who have scarce of existence-threatening clinical problems, according to U.S. Information.

Texas Children’s Medical center was the only pediatric hospital in the condition that was bundled on the Honor Roll, but many others have been recognized in U.S. News’ regional and specialty rankings.

Children’s Health care Heart Dallas ranked as the second-most effective pediatric hospital in Texas, whilst Cook Children’s Healthcare Heart in Fort Worth rated 3rd.

Children’s Memorial Hermann Medical center rated as the fourth-very best pediatric clinic in Texas. It acquired national rankings in four specialties: 27th in neurology, 35th in cardiology and gastroenterology and 49th in orthopedics.

MD Anderson Children’s Most cancers Healthcare facility also acquired a nationwide rating of 23rd in most cancers treatment.

The Finest Children’s Hospitals rankings are primarily based on clinical info and an annual study of countless

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3 min read

Some medical tests, such as MRIs done early for uncomplicated low back pain and routine vitamin D tests “just to be thorough,” are considered “low-value care” and can lead to further testing that can cost patients thousands of dollars.

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Some medical tests, such as MRIs done early for uncomplicated low back pain and routine vitamin D tests “just to be thorough,” are considered “low-value care” and can lead to further testing that can cost patients thousands of dollars.

ER Productions Limited/Getty Images

Dr. Meredith Niess saw her patient was scared. He’d come to the Veterans Affairs clinic in Denver with a painful hernia near his stomach. Niess, a primary care resident, knew he needed surgery right away. But another doctor had already ordered a chest X-ray instead.

The test results revealed a mass in the man’s lung.

“This guy is sweating in his seat, [and] he’s not thinking about his hernia,” Niess said. “He’s thinking he’s got cancer.”

It was 2012, and Niess was upset. Though ordering a chest X-ray in a case like this was considered routine medical practice, Niess understood something her patient didn’t. Decades of evidence showed the chest X-ray was unnecessary and the “mass” was probably a shadow or a cluster of blood vessels. These non-finding findings are so common that doctors have dubbed them “incidentalomas.”

Niess also knew the initial X-ray would trigger more tests and delay the man’s surgery further.

In fact, a follow-up CT scan showed a clean lung but picked up another suspicious “something” in the patient’s adrenal gland.

“My heart just sank,” Niess said. “This doesn’t feel like medicine.”

A second CT scan finally cleared her patient for surgery — six months after he’d come for help.

Niess wrote about the case in JAMA Internal Medicine as an example of what researchers call a “cascade of care” — a seemingly unstoppable series of medical tests or procedures.

Cascades can begin when a test done for a good reason finds something unexpected. After all, good medicine often requires some sleuthing.

“Low-value care”

The most troubling cascades, though, start like Niess’ patient’s, with an unnecessary test — what Ishani Ganguli, a primary care physician who is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University, and other researchers, call “low-value services” or “low-value care.”

“A low-value service is a service for which there is little to no benefit in that clinical scenario, and potential for harm,” Ganguli said.

Over the past 30 years, doctors and researchers like Ganguli have flagged more than 600 procedures, treatments and services that are unlikely to help patients: Tests like MRIs done early for uncomplicated low back pain, prostate cancer screenings for men over 80 and routine vitamin D tests.

Research suggests low-value care is costly, with one study estimating that the U.S. health care system spends $75 billion to $100 billion annually on these services. Ganguli published a paper in 2019 that found the federal government

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2 min read

STRATEGIC MARKET RESEARCH LLP

According to the research analysts of Strategic Market Research, the Dental Equipment Market was worth USD 5.7 billion in 2020 and is likely to reach a landmark of nearly USD 12 billion in 2030 with a robust CAGR of 7.7%. An increase in the geriatric population suffering from oral diseases, a continuous rise in medical tourism related to dental treatment, and the introduction of multiple government initiatives for public oral health care are driving the market growth.

New York, United States, May 31, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Dental instruments are tools used to cure, examine, manipulate, and restore any oral-related diseases. Based on Product Type, the dental systems and parts segment held the largest share of almost 39.9% of the entire market in 2020. Moreover, on a regional basis, North America possessed the largest Dental Equipment Market share of around 38.2% in 2020 and is expected to rise with a steady CAGR during the forecasted period.

To get a first-hand overview of the report, Request a Sample at 

https://www.strategicmarketresearch.com/request-sample/dental-equipment-market

The segmentation analysis of the latest report published by Strategic Market Research on the Dental Equipment Market is as follows:

By Product

Based on End-User
· Hospitals and Clinics
· Dental Academic & Research Institutes
· Other End Users

Regions

  • North America

  • Europe

  • Asia-Pacific

  • LAMEA

Make a Direct Purchase of the latest Dental Equipment Market Report published in the month of May 2022. Click the below link to initiate the purchase: 

https://www.strategicmarketresearch.com/buy-now/renal-denervation-market

Report Coverage

Details

Forecast Period

2020-2030

Forecast Period 2021 to 2028 CAGR

7.7%

 

2030 Value Projection

12 billion

Base Year

2020

 

Market Size in 2020

5.7 billion

Historical Data for

2015 – 2019

No. of Pages

135

 

Companies

DENTSPLY Sirona,Planmeca Group,Envista Holdings,A-dec Inc,J. MORITA CORP,GC Corporation,Midmark Corporation,b&d dental equipment liquidators,Straumann Holdings AG ,3M Company,BIOLASE, Inc,3Shape A/S,BEGO GmbH & Co. Kg ,Ultradent Products, Inc,Nakanishi Inc.

Leading SegmentBased on Product Type

Dental systems

Leading Region

North America

Segments covered

Based on Product Type, Based on End-User, and Based on Regions

Growth Drivers

The rise in Geriatric Population, Medical Tourism

Multiple Government Initiatives

The Market for Global Dental Equipment is predicted to reach an overall value of USD 12 billion by 2030 from USD 5.7 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 7.7 percent during the forecasted period. The rise in dental disorders due to aging, smoking, and poor oral hygiene creates a significant demand for dental equipment devices, thereby enhancing the market growth. As per the March 2020 update by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 3.5 billion people are severely affected by oral and gum diseases worldwide, resulting in tooth loss. It is one of the most common diseases, affecting around 10% of the global population. Hence, the rising cases of oral and gum disease are prevised to boost dental care needs and enhance market growth throughout the forecasted period.

By Product Type, the Dental systems and parts segment held the largest share of the total Dental Equipment market.
Based on Product Type, the

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3 min read

The Fierro family of Yuma, Arizona, had a string of bad medical luck that started in December 2020.

That’s when Jesús Fierro Sr. was admitted to the hospital with a serious covid-19 infection. He spent 18 days at Yuma Regional Medical Center, where he lost 60 pounds. He came home weak and dependent on an oxygen tank.

Then, in June 2021, his wife, Claudia, fainted while waiting for a table at the local Olive Garden. She felt dizzy one minute and was in an ambulance on her way to the same medical center the next. She was told her magnesium levels were low and was sent home within 24 hours.

The family has health insurance through Jesús Sr.’s job. But it didn’t protect the Fierros from owing thousands of dollars. So, when their son Jesús Fierro Jr. dislocated his shoulder, the Fierros — who hadn’t yet paid the bills for their own care — opted out of U.S. health care and headed south to the U.S.-Mexico border.

And no other bills came for at least one member of the family.

The Patients: Jesús Fierro Sr., 48; Claudia Fierro, 51; and Jesús Fierro Jr., 17. The family has Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas health insurance through Jesús Sr.’s employment with NOV Inc., formerly National Oilwell Varco, a multinational oil company.

Medical Services: For Jesús Sr., 18 days of inpatient care for a severe covid infection. For Claudia, less than 24 hours of emergency care after fainting. For Jesús Jr., a walk-in appointment for a dislocated shoulder.

Total Bills: Jesús Sr. was charged $3,894.86. The total bill was $107,905.80 for covid treatment. Claudia was charged $3,252.74, including $202.36 for treatment from an out-of-network physician. The total bill was $13,429.50 for less than a day of treatment. Jesús Jr. was charged about $5 (70 pesos) for an outpatient visit that the family paid in cash.

Service Providers: Yuma Regional Medical Center, a 406-bed, nonprofit hospital in Yuma, Arizona. It’s in the Fierros’ insurance network. And a private doctor’s office in Mexicali, Mexico, which is not.

The Fierros have been strapped by unusually high medical bills from the Yuma Regional Medical Center.(Lisa Hornak for KHN)

What Gives: The Fierros were trapped in a situation that more and more Americans find themselves in: They are what some experts term “functionally uninsured.” They have insurance — in this case, through Jesús Sr.’s job, which pays $72,000 a year. But their health plan is expensive, and they don’t have the liquid savings to pay their “share” of the bill. The Fierros’ plan says their out-of-pocket maximum is $8,500 a year for the family. And in a country where even a short stay in an emergency room is billed at a staggering sum, that means minor encounters with the medical system can take virtually all of the family’s disposable savings, year after year. And that’s why the Fierros opted out.

According to the terms of the insurance plan, which has a $2,000 family deductible and

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