‘Demystifying’ Coverage for Chronic Pain

Happy New Year! That is, until you go to a doctor’s office to treat something like chronic joint pain.

With the calendar turning to 2017, patients will find they are starting over when it comes to paying health insurance deductibles. Many of them – about 40 percent in the U.S., according to a new study – have insurance plans with low monthly premium payments but high deductibles. That’s the price you pay for cheaper plans such as Bronze options offered on the Healthcare.gov Marketplace or the least costly plans offered by employers.

High-deductible plans make sense for people who are younger, generally healthy and expect to see a doctor very few times a year. However, figures indicate more than 90 percent of those signing up on Healthcare.gov are picking high-deductible plans – and there’s no way 90 percent of Americans are healthy enough to largely avoid doctor visits this year.

Patients dealing with chronic pain know they routinely will see one or more physicians and fill prescriptions over 12 months while seeking to stay pain-free. Same with those who have other chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, depression and many types of cancer.

The new study warns that those who chose high-deductible plans should plan to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars of their own money to pay medical bills. It could amount to more than 10 percent of a chronically ill person’s total income. The study found that patients don’t always think through likely medical costs over the year and that physicians often don’t take into account patients’ ability to pay when prescribing treatment and medications.

At Balcones Pain Consultants, we treat many patients with chronic joint pain, which makes it harder to do daily activities. For example, take knees, a common source of chronic pain associated with arthritis. Treatments include knee braces, oral and topical medication, injections or surgeries.

We seek to “demystify” chronic pain as much as possible by providing helpful information so you better understand your condition and what can be done about it. We also can help “demystify” what your costs will be under your health care plan. Ask us when you make an appointment.

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