Why 66% of Americans Are Clueless About Health Care Costs

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By Jennifer Liu

Visiting the doctor isn't exactly an enjoyable experience.

But what feels worse? Opening your mail weeks later, only to face a medical bill that you didn't anticipate.

About two-thirds of American adults -- or a whopping 155 million of us -- have been confronted by that unpleasant surprise in the past year, according to a Vitals Index survey.

In many cases, that's because the price tag hadn't even come up. While the majority of survey respondents feel out-of-pocket medical costs impact their budgets "seriously" or "very much," 3 out of 5 don't ask their doctors about the cost of a service they're about to receive.

Think about that for a moment ... Would you buy a smartphone or a sofa without considering the price?

Why approach a medical purchase any differently?

Well, it turns out these cost conversations typically don't happen for one of three reasons: patients believe their insurance will foot the bill; they don't think their doctor knows the cost of the procedure; or they aren't even aware they can ask about the price tag for recommended services.

Besides having a heart-to-heart with your doctor, you can also reduce your chances of an unexpected bill by getting more familiar with your insurance plan.

A good starting point is to confirm the amount of your health insurance deductible (something nearly 25 percent of respondents couldn't cite offhand).

And if you need a health insurance refresher, consult our glossary of 12 need-to-know terms -- and you'll be in better shape to tackle this fall's open enrollment period.
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