|(ARA) – When you were laid off, you needed to cut your expenses to the bone. It was either food for your family or monthly health care premiums. So you decided to let your health care insurance lapse. You’re not alone. Millions of Americans affected by the recession are being forced to face that decision. |
But what would happen if you suddenly experienced a heart attack, if your family was involved an automobile accident, or your spouse was diagnosed with cancer? Not knowing what your health care rights are, whether you’re insured or not, could be a matter of life or death, according to FindLaw.com, the world’s leading online source of legal information.
While most Americans have coverage through their employer, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates 47 million Americans do not have health insurance. And that figure may rise to 60 million by 2010 due to the effects of the recession, according to Urban Institute researchers. With rising health care costs, employment may no longer guarantee health care coverage for the employed as small business employers struggle with paying their portion of health care premiums.
Whether you have health care insurance through an employer, you rely on a government program such as Medicaid or Medicare, or you’re struggling to pay for your own health care, it’s essential to understand what your rights are in order to obtain the best health care possible, especially in an emergency situation. Here are eight tips from FindLaw.com on what you should absolutely know about obtaining health care in America, especially if you are uninsured.
1. Emergency treatment. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) requires hospitals to provide treatment to stabilize patients, but it does not require the hospital to provide treatment after stabilization.
2. Stay out of the emergency room. Unless you have a true emergency or life-threatening condition, stay out of the emergency room. If you have a sore throat or earache, this is the most expensive way to get treatment. Instead, ask friends, co-workers and family members for recommendations of a good family practitioner and/or a nearby health clinic. Work closely with your family practitioner to begin a preventive care program that includes annual check-ups, mammograms and pap smears for women, and prostate exams and PSA tests for men. Make sure to go to the dentist regularly, too.
3. Understand your health. Become knowledgeable about your own health and any conditions or diseases that you may have. Start a health journal for yourself and your family to record all health-related issues, including reactions to specific medicines. Ask any question of your physician that you feel is important to you. If you are curious about it, then you have the right to ask about it and to receive an honest answer. When it comes to your health, there are no stupid questions. The more you know about your health, the more difficult it is for anyone, including an insurance company, to tell you a specific type of treatment is inappropriate or unnecessary.
4. Take responsibility for your health. Along those lines, start now to give up habits or behaviors (smoking, overeating, excessive drinking) that you know will compromise your health, and start to adopt new behaviors, such as daily exercise and eating healthy.
5. Read and make sure you understand your health care insurance policy. Your health care insurance coverage is a contract, and it spells out exactly what the insurance company covers, as well as its procedures. Many Americans never bother to read their health insurance policy until they find themselves in a health crisis. Take the time to read your policy to clearly understand what medical procedures are covered. And make sure you also understand the terms under which your health coverage could be cancelled, such as for a pre-existing condition. Don’t be afraid to comparison shop to find better coverage at a lower price.
6. Free- and low-cost health care. Check your area for free clinics, clinics that charge on a sliding scale and state or county public health departments that offer free or discounted medical services, especially immunizations. If you cannot afford private health care insurance, check with your state to see if you or your children qualify for state-run insurance programs.
7. Be your own best advocate. If you do not like the way your physician treats you, if you do not trust him or her, or if you do not believe she is providing you with the best possible care, find a new physician. Similarly, you have the right to leave a hospital or care facility against medical advice. You will likely have to sign a waiver form indicating that you are doing so on your own free will and against the recommendations of your medical providers.
8. Know your options. You have the right to be told about alternative courses of treatment, even if your health insurance may not cover them or you may not be able to afford them. If you find that your physician is saying things like, “well, there is another option, but you probably can’t afford it,” clearly state that you are aware of your right to be told about all possible options, whether or not you may be able to pay for them.
Courtesy of ARAcontent