If you think scheduling a gynecologist appointment is all about calling and choosing a date and time. You’re dead wrong, my friend. Ok, it is an important part because, yes, having a set time for your exam is part of the process. However, knowing how you’re going to pay is the highest priority. This is when insurance coverage comes into play. Having insurance is going to determine if preventative services like a well-woman exam are covered. Whereas not having insurance will mean you’ll be responsible for paying out of pocket. Both of these instances involve specific steps.
For now, let’s focus on how insurance coverage impacts your gynecologist appointment from co-pays, coinsurance, deductibles, and the Affordable Care Act. These different parts of health insurance determine what you can expect to pay for gynecological care.
Insurance And Your Gynecologist Appointment
Your health insurance is in charge of what services and prescriptions they’ll cover. And they determine what health care providers you have access to. Many insurance companies work within a network or organization of providers. This means that provider options are determined by what type of insurance you have. Furthermore, if you seek a provider outside of your network, you’ll be stuck paying completely out of pocket.
Legal Responsibility of Insurance Plans
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) leveled the playing field when it came to what insurance companies were obligated to provide. And, while there’s so much this bill impacted in terms of health care. The most relevant benefit is preventative care. Per the ACA, preventative care services are covered at 100% with no cost to the patient. Furthermore, reaching your deductible isn’t required to qualify. And, it’s available on all major medical health insurance plans.
So, what does that mean for your gynecologist appointment? It means your well-woman exam is covered at no cost to you. You’re allotted one annual well-woman exam. This means your pelvic exam, pap smear, breast exam, and contraception counseling are covered each year.
It’s important to note that not all tests are considered preventative care. So, if these tests are administered the same day as your preventative care services, you’ll either have to defer to your insurance plan. Or, if you haven’t met your deductible, payout of pocket.
The Basics of How Insurance Works
Understanding how insurance works isn’t complicated. They’re all built on the same general principles. They only differ regarding premiums, deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance, levels, and types. This applies to both employer insurance and marketplace insurance. However, when it comes to private insurance, some stipulations may apply. I’ve discussed private insurance before. See Is Indemnity Insurance Right for You?
Insurance Premium & Deductible
The insurance premium is the amount you’re expected to pay for your insurance monthly or yearly, depending on how you prefer to schedule your payments.
Deductibles are the specified amount you pay upfront before your provider pays for your health services. For example, if your gynecologist appointment costs $200, your deductible is $8,000, and you haven’t met it. You will be responsible for paying for the $200 appointment out of pocket.
Stipulations regarding deductibles vary from plan to plan. Speaking to your insurance provider before scheduling your gynecologist appointment is highly recommended. Doing this provides clarity regarding your deductible amount and stipulations. This way, you’ll know upfront if having additional tests is feasible for you.
Co-Pay vs. Coinsurance
Generally, upon reaching your deductible, you’ll begin paying your co-pay or coinsurance. Your co-pay is the set amount you’re expected to pay for health services. In contrast, coinsurance involves the percentage that you and the insurance company are responsible for paying. Again, this takes effect after your deductible is met.
The main similarity between these two is that you’re responsible for your health care expenses (aside from yearly annuals and preventative care) until your deductible is met. As always, pay attention to the summary of benefits because each plan is different. For instance, your plan may allow a co-pay until you satisfy your deductible then you receive 100% coverage for all health services.
Your deductible, co-pay, and co-insurance will not factor into your well-woman exam since it’s a preventative health service and fully covered under the ACA. However, understanding insurance deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance can help if additional tests or imaging is needed.
Discuss with your provider during your appointment if they require additional tests outside of preventative care. Work with them to coordinate a future date to have these tests when you can pay for these services.
What’s Your Insurance Type
Insurance types determine policies regarding deductibles, available in-network providers, and ability to access a specialist (friendly reminder gynecologists are considered specialists). Currently, there are four common insurance types known as HMO, PPO, EPO, and POS.
If your type of insurance requires a referral, you’ll have to visit your PCP and have them refer you to a specialist. This can act as a hurdle for choosing your gynecologist and obtaining gynecological care. And may prevent you from choosing your desired provider. It’s important to speak with your insurance provider regarding their protocols and regulations regarding gynecological care and well-woman exams. Knowing the differences between plan types lets you know whether you’ll need to get a referral from your PCP for a gynecologist.
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
An HMO is a network of health providers and facilities contracted with the insurance provider. You are given certain healthcare providers that you can choose for your healthcare provider. In many HMO insurance types, a primary care provider is recommended for general health needs. It may be necessary to obtain a referral from your PCP to be seen by a specialist. But, again, talk with your provider about how this impacts gynecological care.
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
With a PPO, your selection of providers becomes larger. Furthermore, you won’t need a referral to work with a specialist. You’re free to seek care from any healthcare provider within the network. This has little impact on gynecological care since you have the freedom to choose your gynecologist.
Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)
These insurance plans offer a generous selection of providers, and no referral is needed for specialists. This means you won’t have to go through your PCP to find a provider for your gynecologist appointment.
Point of Service (POS)
This particular plan combines the HMO and PPO. Benefits include the flexibility you have to choose your preferred provider. Yet, receiving specialized care like a gynecologist may involve getting a referral from your PCP. If you have a PCO speak with your provider to clarify how this applies to getting a gynecologist appointment for a well-woman exam. There could be allowances for gynecological care.
Once Insurance Is Out of the Way
Your stress levels decrease when you understand insurance and legislation regarding preventative health services. Furthermore, understanding if your deductible has been met allows you to communicate with your doctor if you can afford testing that falls outside of preventative screening.
Scheduling Tips for Your Gynecologist Appointment
Keeping a few considerations in mind when scheduling your gynecologist appointment can prove beneficial.
Ask about their new patient policies. Do you need to arrive a few minutes earlier to complete the paperwork, or can this be done online? Is there a cancellation notice or late fee? Have them explain their policy for insurance claims.
For instance, do they hold a card on file if the insurance company doesn’t cover a claim? How will they alert you if this happens, and do they allow a grace period, so you’re made aware of the upcoming debit from your account? Knowing how they handle these matters beforehand can clear up any potential frustration for you both.
The Day of Your Appointment
As a new patient, it’s common practice to arrive 15 minutes early to your appointment. This allows time for you to be checked in and fill out paperwork. Also, your insurance card and ID will be required. They’re used to verify your insurance coverage.
If they require a card to be kept on file for unpaid insurance claims, choose a card that you feel comfortable having them debit and ensure there’s clear communication before they charge. A grace period of 24-36 hours is typical.
Basic knowledge of your insurance coverage and implementing the aforementioned tips make your first gynecologist appointment easier. Knowing about current legislation regarding covered preventative health care services allows you to clarify essential versus non-essential testing. This way, you’re not slapped with an unexpected bill. You’re provided the option to continue with testing or postpone to a future date.
We can’t end this discussion without taking the time to acknowledge that insurance is a privilege that many may not have access to. If you fall under this category, your journey to receiving gynecological care will be different. However, there are options available to make access to such care available. Many of these options rely on income and other criteria to determine eligibility for health care assistance. In the next post of this series, we’ll discuss the various options available and utilizing them. And, if you’re ineligible for these options, we’ll discuss feasible options to afford gynecological care.