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Families pay $24,000 in healthcare costs annually

By Jim Rowland
Families pay an average of almost $25,000 annually in healthcare costs.

For a family of four or more, those medical bills sure add up, but have you ever wondered what the grand total is? According to the 2015 Milliman Medical Index, the average American family of four covered by an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization plan is $24,671. 

The cost of health
When compared to the past few years, 2015 is the most expensive one. The indices were $19,393, $20,728, $22,030 and $23,215 for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively. The picture only becomes more grim when you look at a larger window of time. Medical costs for the typical American family have more than doubled over the last decade. But what's the reason behind this uptick? 

As stated in the report, a spike in pharmaceutical drugs is responsible for the overall increase in spending on healthcare, accounting for 15.9 percent of the total cost. Prices rose by more than 13 percent between 2014 and 2015. An increase in generic, brand name and compound drugs is driving up the prices of medications. Not to mention, an entirely new breed of specialty drugs cost a hefty fee. 

Forbes magazine reported on earlier studies, stating that hepatitis C pills can cost upward of $1,000. However, many newer drugs are more expensive to produce, driving the cost up for the consumer. 

Breaking down the numbers further, the Macmillian Index found that of the $24,671 families spent on healthcare, more than $10,000 was paid for by the family, $6,408 through payroll deductions and $4,065 through out-of-pocket expenses. 

Health costs not feasible for all 
These findings beg the question: What about families whose budgets don't stretch to meet this nearly $25,000 price point? Are they left in the dust? Do they have to self-sacrifice to balance rent with medical expenses? 

"Some families may shell out at a quarter or more of their annual incomes on doctor's bills."

The Social Security Administration confirmed that the average American's salary was just under $45,000 in 2013. Since then, this number may have gone up, but as proven by the data, these increases are within a couple thousand dollars. That means some families - namely one parent households - may ultimately shell out at a quarter or more of their annual incomes on doctor's bills, prescriptions and medical procedures. This information underscores the importance of saving money on clinical expenses. 

Is it possible to spend less?
A major problem can arise from cutting corners. People may avoid crucial doctor's appointments altogether or skip a prescription refill to put food on the table. However, this patches an open wound rather than heals it. Skimping on medical attention can leave conditions undiagnosed, put people at risk of developing a serious ailment later on in life and ultimately influence a person's overall health. 

According to Healthline, saving money on healthcare is possible without skipping treatments and check-ups. Clear communication with physicians is key to keeping money in the bank. Being upfront about finances can ultimately be a segue to savings. Patients should ask about generic medication options, alternative treatment and even a discount.

amilies_pay_24000_in_healthcare_costs_annually2.jpgAsking about generic options can save families from medical expenses.

Listening to a doctor's advice the first time around can keep patients from paying hand over fist. Families might inquire about lab testing prices to avoid getting hit with a huge bill months down the road. It's not uncommon for a bill to contain mistakes, which is why patients should examine it thoroughly - even doctor's make errors. Data may have gotten jumbled in the system, inadvertently charging someone for services he or she didn't receive.

Keeping in touch with your doctor in between visits can also reduce overall healthcare costs. Taking advantage of available technologies, such as Healthjump's patient portal, may also alleviate these expenses. At the very least, awareness of this price point can ultimately help families plan for the future clinical costs. 

by Jim Rowland

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