How to Get Medical Care Even If You Can’t Pay a Copayment

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A Beaumont pastor has been left with thousands of dollars in medical bills after he was unable to pay a co-pay for a post-surgery exam.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Knowing that a visit could have been avoided in the first place is something that can make a pile of medical bills from a hospital visit more frustrating than it already is.

Expensive copays for follow-up visits have put many patients on hold.

“Do I want some ice cream today, or do I want to go ahead and get my pneumonia antibiotic, and you know, and so it’s fair, it’s shameful and almost unbearable,” Kenneth Bean Sr., pastor at the Oak Grove Baptist Church, said. “It’s completely frustrating.”

The Beaumont pastor knows firsthand how frustrating it is not to receive care due to an unaffordable copayment.

“In September, I had major surgery, and so from what I was told, two available post-op visits were already covered,” Bean said.

For reasons unknown to Bean, post-operative visits were not fully covered. Bean was denied treatment because he couldn’t pay the copayment.

“And then I just started [kept] sicker and sicker and sicker,” Bean said. “So eventually I have to bite the bullet and go to an urgent care centre. Then I just racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills.”

Although the operation and the illness that landed him in the emergency room were not directly related, Bean said the medications he would have received during the check-up could have eased his inflammation.

“I just wanted, maybe, for them to look to make sure there’s maybe no infection or something or inflammation,” Bean said. “Is there maybe a stronger drug that’s needed to reduce the inflammation, and I couldn’t get there.”

Receiving the drugs could have saved Bean from going to the emergency room and saved him thousands of dollars in emergency medical bills. Medical insurance experts said it was a perfect example of the shortcomings of the healthcare system.

“We are between a rock and a hard place,” said Christine Van Harem, CEO of Better Way Advocacy. “The failure of our health system. So it’s all about the bottom line, meaning the insurance companies make money and the facilities make money.”

Harem knows there are options for people who can’t afford a co-pay but don’t want to wait and see their condition worsen.

“So, first of all, choose wisely,” Harem said. “Choose your insurance plan wisely. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Make sure you know what you can afford.

Harem advises people to seek financial assistance from their provider. If they are not eligible for support, Harem encourages them to request a payment plan.

Harem said that while it’s not the best option, if you can, put your copayment on a credit card. This will give those who need it an extra 30 days to pay it back.

“Again, not a good option, but if you want to get the care, that’s where we are right now,” Harem said.

Harem also said people can ask their provider to charge their co-pay, instead of paying upfront. She said more and more facilities across the country are turning down this option, but it’s still worth it and better than the alternative.

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