Helping Your Teen with Her Healthcare
By Tamra Wade
Would your daughter know how to make and keep a doctor’s appointment?
Would she know what over the counter medications to take to treat her fever? Does she know when a fever is too high and it’s time to seek the attention of a doctor?
Does she know what basic health insurance terms mean, such as front-end deductible, premium, policyholder and copay?
Would she know what to do if the doctor she was seeing didn’t help her in the ways that she needed to be helped? What if the doctor discounted her concerns?
Have you talked with your daughter about managing her healthcare?
These questions came up in our house not too long ago because my then teenaged daughter was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night for stomach pain. At the time she was living with her father. He and I have been divorced nearly her entire life so it was not surprising that neither my daughter nor my daughter’s father understood how her insurance worked. I am the policyholder. Neither of the phoned me until she had already been seen.
The long of it, my daughter, who is technically an adult, is now responsible for a very high hospital bill. My policy has a very high front-end deductible and is essentially covers catastrophic events. Her portion of the deductible was not met at the time she was seen at the hospital so the entire visit is not covered. She is technically responsible for paying the entire cost of the emergency room visit out of her pocket.
Would your daughter know how to navigate this situation?
My guess, the answer is not very likely. This is also not surprising. Healthcare is very complicated and ever changing. It’s very hard to navigate even for people who work in the industry. Many adults can’t navigate their own healthcare and health insurance rules and policies. Why then would we expect our teenaged daughters to know how?
If you haven’t already, please take the time to share what you know about healthcare with your daughter. Make it age appropriate. Start talking about healthcare when your daughter is very young. Explain why she is going to her ‘well child’ check ups. Explain that these check ups should last a life time as she grows into her well woman exams. Help her understand why it’s important for her to be seen by the doctor regularly as she grows.
Explain how your health insurance works. Use terms like copay, front-end deductible and premium. If you are not clear on what these terms mean specifically with your own insurance, contact your provider and have them walk you through your coverage specifics. The customer service number is typically on the back of your policy’s health care card.
Your daughter must learn to be her own healthcare advocate.
This is critical. So many times in my life I have had doctors and therapists miss diagnose me. I have seen it happen with my family. When this happens it is very scary and can be deadly.
My mother had stage four lung cancer. She has survived it. The short of it is, in the beginning, she had doctors miss diagnosing her and providing incorrect treatment plans. Some of their suggested plans were actually harming her. We know this because my brother, also a doctor, was over seeing her care and demanded other opinions. I am convinced that his vigilance is one of the reasons my mother survived.
In the beginning, my mother and father didn’t want to get other opinions. They didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the current doctor. They were embarrassed. This is a very real concern. I hear it from people all the time. I don’t want to discount this feeling.
The reality is, most doctors welcome collaboration with other doctors. There is a miss conception that getting another opinion hurts the relationship with the current doctor. It either isn’t the case or it is the least of your worries. When it comes to your life and the lives of your loved ones, it doesn’t matter if you hurt the doctor’s feelings. What matters is that you get the care you need.
You don’t have to be a doctor to be vigilant over your own healthcare. There is a reason it is called a ‘practice’. Doctors are ‘practicing’ medicine. They work for you. You are paying the bill. Remember that your instinct, your gut feelings, have a say in your healthcare. Speak up. Get other doctor’s opinions.
A great online recourse by KidsHealth.org – Health Insurance Basics that can help get the conversation going.
These conversations with our daughters with help to provide them with the information they need to transition into taking care of themselves one day; and to do this without financial devastation.
Paper Hope Street Team – radio broadcast: Healthcare and Your Teen