Doctors should talk to patients about their financial concerns relating to their medical care with questions such as, “Are you worried about how your medical care will be paid for?” And they should discuss treatment options and costs with patients. To avoid treating patients differently based on income, all patients should be screen for financial stress. Doctors should be prepared to help patients identify financial resources when payment is an issue.
Those are recommendations in a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which notes that household financial strain from medical bills won't disappear even after millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans gain insurance coverage next year under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The authors urged physicians to consider cost as one factor that can negatively affect patients' health and well-being.
“Medical bills are now a leading cause of financial harm and physicians decide what goes on the bill,” wrote the physician-authors. Doctors can alleviate unnecessary financial strain by paying close attention to the cost of their own treatment recommendations, said Dr. Christopher Moriates, Dr. Neel Shah and Dr. Veneet Arora.