If you have been a Liberty HealthShare member for any length of time, you know that we ask our members to actively engage with the cost of their care. This is so that, as a community, we can wisely steward and preserve the financial resources we all share in times of unexpected and unaffordable medical need.
In the eyes of the healthcare industry, Liberty HealthShare members are considered “self-pay patients." This simply means that, rather than letting a third party function as the arbiter of our medical expenses, we take personal responsibility for the costs associated with our healthcare.
As our Sharing Guidelines state, “Each member is a self-pay patient who sends monthly contributions to assist another member who has medical expenses.” This arrangement brings accountability to our interactions with providers by allowing us to function as customers rather than mere observers.
Any time we interact with the healthcare industry as patients, from a yearly check-up to an unforeseen surgical intervention, we alone have the power to compare prices and choose how and where we will access healthcare. In our interactions with medical providers, we not only have the right to transparency in pricing but also the responsibility to ask questions and accept only the care that is absolutely necessary and reasonably priced.
But most of us have little to no prior experience “shopping” for healthcare. So where should we begin? It’s actually not as complicated as it seems.
Think about the larger purchases you have made in the past. You most likely did research, confirmed you were getting the right product for your needs, and made sure you weren’t paying more than you needed to. You can and should apply those same principles to interactions with your physician and the care he or she recommends for you.
This works best when you and your physician have a relationship; one in which he or she knows you are a self-pay patient who is concerned with the cost of your care. Then, you can decide together what the necessary next steps are when you receive a diagnosis and require treatment.
For instance, if your physician prescribes a battery of blood tests, an imaging study, or a procedure for some symptom you are experiencing, you can and should ask questions such as, “Are all of these tests, etc. required at this point or is there a more conservative route we can take?”
There are many online tools available to self-pay patients (that’s you!) to help you shop for healthcare in your area. Your provider may even have some suggestions about where to start. Additionally, Liberty members will soon have access to the Healthcare Bluebook, an online tool that can save you hundreds of dollars on your medical services and bills by helping you find providers who are committed to offering you a fair and affordable price for medical care.
Practically speaking, there are two ways you can approach your provider’s office as a member of Liberty HealthShare:
- Tell them you are a self-pay patient who is a member of a healthcare sharing ministry. Present your member ID card and, if the provider is willing to work directly with us, have them send us your bill. We will work with them to negotiate the final price.
- Find a doctor who will commit to giving you a fair price for his or her services. In many cases, this takes the form of a discount for self-pay patients who pay their costs up front. Once you have paid your bill, you should then submit your itemized bill to Liberty. Expenses that are eligible for sharing will be reimbursed to you.
Keep in mind that Liberty HealthShare’s Sharing Guidelines still apply to any bills you submit for sharing. Don’t forget that for certain tests and procedures, pre-notification is required in order to ensure members are only undergoing necessary care at the lowest cost possible. Make sure you read about pre-notification in the Sharing Guidelines and don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions. You can and should get in touch whenever you are unsure about the cost of your care!
We believe that you, our members, are capable of approaching healthcare with wisdom. Even more, we are seeking to live up to our name by giving you the Liberty to decide what is best for you and your family.