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Like many Americans in their thirties, I have had the opportunity to navigate my healthcare costs in a variety of ways over the years. 

I’ve received insurance plans with cards from various employers. Some I paid into, some I didn’t. Once, when leaving my 4-year coffee shop job after college, I took on COBRA for several months. When I was a social impact marketing consultant for a year, I purchased a plan from the marketplace. Also, for some small periods of time I have taken the risk and not opted into anything.


 

When I look back I realize that in each of these scenarios I was either a bit confused or a bit concerned whether it would all work out.

My confusion at times kept me from being proactive about the care I really needed and at other times my concerns became a reality. 

Early into one of my first jobs out of college, I remember an enrollment meeting with eyes glazed over trying to take in multiple glossy packets with endless pages, confused about all of the acronyms and when I would use this for that. 

I had just moved to Seattle and so I took recommendations from friends for their favorite doctors in town only to end up realizing that none of them were in my network.

I finally went to my first doctor’s appointment and waited for over an hour to see the doctor, only to be shuttled in and out of an appointment that lasted under ten minutes. Not only did I get little care or clarity around my health status, but I also felt angry and humiliated. 

A couple of years into this same job I became ill after traveling internationally and visited multiple specialists to find what was wrong. It was here that I first encountered “surprise bills”. And not just one of them. That year after paying monthly premiums and a high deductible, I closed the year with a challenging health condition and devastating financial situation.

I could go on…

My colleagues and I laugh about this often, but a dinner party word to the wise – DO NOT bring up your own journey navigating our complex medical system if you don’t want to spend the next couple of hours listening to everyone else’s.

We all have one. 


Becoming a Direct Healthcare Consumer

In the last several years I have managed my healthcare directly while being backed by a community that shares with me when large unexpected events occur. 

I have always led a healthy lifestyle and been intentional about my overall wellness. But, being a Member of the Sedera Medical Cost Sharing Community has allowed me to become a stronger health CARE shopper and to be proactive about my expenses as well. 

The most important thing I have learned is that you can actually “have it all”. There is a way to be empowered and confident when it comes to managing costs and choices. 


Here are a few supporting lessons that taught me to become more empowered and engaged when it comes to my health:

 

1. There are good options. 

There is not only one way to manage health-related costs. The path I am on is centered around both personal responsibility and community care, which provides freedom while still connecting me with a community that cares. I am not stuck and I am not alone. 

It is also exciting to see an entire ecosystem of direct care options emerging that provide incredible care at a tremendous value without any third-party payers involved. The growth of solutions like this make it easier for me to be a cash pay patient and our system more efficient as well.

 

2. I can shop around. 

Having this kind of freedom is a bit of extra work at first but ultimately rewarding. The first time I called around to ask urgent care practices for their “cash pay” price felt a bit awkward. But when I chose the best one for me based on location, cost, reviews, and the sound of their voice it was actually fun and empowering. I was able to shop for care like I shop for an oil change or a new tax accountant and it felt right to have both freedom and flexibility. 

 

3. I can plan. 

There is a way to understand my worst and best case scenario for medical costs in any given year. Being a direct consumer allows me to budget for the everyday stuff, set money aside for the unexpected, and know my monthly costs. No negative surprises. Whether you are a single person, family, or business trying to support your employees, this is important. 

 

5. Asking questions helps my doctor help me. 

Finding a medical home where my questions are welcome, and time is generously available is incredibly empowering. When I established care with a new doctor recently she spent over an hour with me on my first visit and helped me “crack the code” on a significant health challenge. We worked together and the outcomes were better. 

 

6. The prices in our current healthcare system are inflated. I can negotiate.

I remember the first time I applied a prescription discount card to my medication in the drive-through at the pharmacy. I saved 45% on my prescription and while I had to do a little digging, for the most part, it was pretty painless. 

If you want to learn more about the prices in our medical system and why they are the way they are, check out Dr. Marty Makary’s book, The Price We Pay.

Just over two years into being an engaged healthcare consumer, being smart and savvy when it comes to my health has expanded to take on a more robust meaning. 

 


 

What being “Health Savvy” means to me  now:

 

Over the next several weeks, my team and I want to put resources in your hands to help you successfully navigate care and costs in a way that builds a smart future for your health and your wealth. 

We will walk you through navigating the small, everyday incidents as well as the large and unexpected. And we will do some fun giveaways, so stay tuned! Whether you are a Sedera Member or not, we hope that these resources help you become more health-savvy.

The best news for all of us when it comes to managing costs and choices is: there are options that unite us. It doesn’t have to be either-or. We all have the ability to become empowered and engaged.