GENETIC ALLIANCE BY BY CLAIRE MENA
As the leaves begin to fall, we find ourselves picking out pumpkins, searching for creative costumes, and baking holiday-inspired treats with our little ones. While the temperature declines daily and the holidays lurk right around the corner, there is more than festivities that we should prepare for; we should financially prepare for our children’s healthcare. In a time when a family-centered relationship with your physician is becoming increasingly present, it has also become more common to have open financial discussions with your child’s pediatrician. If healthcare costs may be a concern for your family, there are ways to ease the burden.
Financial preparation begins with choosing the right pediatrician for your family. “Parents who are either expecting their first child, or have moved their family to a new area [should] schedule a visit to interview various pediatricians to see if they are a good fit on a variety of child rearing and healthcare issues,” said Dr. Michelle Cretella, MD who is President of the American College of Pediatricians. She recommends that if financial costs are a concern then this is a good time for parents to discuss it with the doctor. “Most pediatricians I know would be very open to discussing this,” said Dr. Cretella.
While choosing a pediatrician who values shared decision making is important, this open and trusting relationship is built over-time through regular visits. Providing quality healthcare for your child is a team effort. This is especially true with “children with special health care needs [as they] benefit from more frequent visits for developmental surveillance and holistic, person centered care,” said Dr. James Duffee, MD, MPH, who is a member of the executive committee of the Council on Community Pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “In these visits, families can discuss potential complications that their children might experience and plan for an appropriate response in order to minimize family stress and reduce utilization of high cost points of care such as emergency rooms.”
While attending these appointments, learn to become comfortable having crucial conversations with the pediatrician. If money is an issue at the moment, be honest. Speaking directly on this topic can be uncomfortable, so practice asking the pediatrician how much the test or treatment will cost. While the pediatrician may not know, it will show that costs are an area of concern for you. The doctor may suggest more cost effective treatments or provide lower fees. They will understand that you are trying to provide the highest quality care for you child; it just may be financially difficult at the moment.
When medications, treatments, or procedures are necessary, discuss all of the options with the pediatrician. Ask the doctor to address the risks, benefits and costs of each option. Some may be more expensive than others, while others may be more effective. When dealing with prescribed medications, ask the pediatrician to prescribe generics. Generic prescriptions are typically just as effective, but come at a fraction of the cost. Other options to inquire about include programs that assist with out-of-pocket expenses for medications, co-pays relief programs, discounted drugs, mail order programs, and free samples of medication from the provider. There may or may not be alternative options available, but if cost is a concern, it is important to facilitate this conversation with the pediatrician.
Moving toward this form of family-centered care can be difficult to achieve for both the family and the physician, but Dr. Duffy says that when it comes to “children with special needs who generally require longer visits, shared decision-making should be the rule rather than the exception.”
A study in the Journal of Pediatrics finds this form of family centered care lowered out-of-pocket costs for families and saw less emergency room use for families of children with special health care needs. “Shared decision making as a component of family-centered care has the potential to align treatment to the preferences and values of families while improving utilization and lowering costs,” says Dr. Duffee.
Healthcare can already be a large burden, so don’t let the costs be greater than they need to be. This fall, while you plan your outdoor activities and holiday meals, don’t forget to be financially prepared for any expected or unexpected healthcare occurrences. Communicate with your child’s physician and become comfortable acting as a partner in your child’s care. •
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Claire Mena is an Engagement and Outreach Specialist at Genetic Alliance. She previously worked in breaking news and now focuses on the relationship between health care and enhancing patient-centered information. You can find her @clairemelise
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