So, let’s talk about health insurance for a minute… yes, if you’re under 26 you can stay on your parent’s plan. And yes, legally everybody in the United States must be insured. BUT, as a dancer, do you really understand the details of how health insurance affects you?! Health insurance and understanding what you’re entitled to is of the utmost importance for young dancers (especially if you’re training away from home!) Your body is your instrument! So, to make sure you understand your plan, here are three key tips to remember.
- Talk the talk! Learn the terminology. The American healthcare system is quite complex, which makes misunderstandings easy to come by. Most importantly, you’re looking to hear that your desired treatment is ‘covered’ or ‘in-network’. Also, note that the premium, deductible, and copay are always paid solely by you (unless your plan has no deductible or copay, or your employer pays these for you). You need to be ready to pay your copay on the day of your appointment.
- Need help with the terms? Here’s a thorough link: https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/. The following is a pdf with commonly used terminology: http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/sp/healthterms.pdf
- Call the number on your insurance card! Talk to your insurance provider to find out the details of your plan. Remember, they are the customer service department, and you are the customer – they are there to help you! Misunderstandings can become very costly, so make sure you know your plan and the steps you need to take to have medical expenses covered (some plans require you to call in advance for pre-authorization before arriving at a medical facility, or they won’t help cover your bill).
- Most insurance companies connect you to speak with a representative by pushing ‘0’ after selecting your language when you call. Be prepared to wait on hold awhile, as this can be a time-consuming phone call!
- Some insurance plans will only provide reimbursement, especially for international student plans, which means you need to have a savings account ready for your health care (Health Savings Accounts (HSA) can be a great tax-free option!). You’ll need to pay the charges, submit the bill to insurance, and then you’ll get your money returned from the insurance company.
- Dance requires that you push your body beyond its limits. Injured dancers benefit most from seeing physicians who understand their heightened range-of-motion and activity level because they can visualize your end goal for recovery more clearly. Your plan may consider all doctors specializing in dancers near you to be ‘out-of-network’, but, depending on your plan, you may be able to see the ‘out-of-network’ dance doctor with lesser coverage or by paying the bill yourself and then waiting for reimbursement.
- Stand up for what you need! Nobody else knows how you are feeling. Bring a list of your questions and concerns to your doctor appointment. If you’re a dancer recovering from an injury, physical therapy sessions can make a world of difference in your healing, but your insurance likely won’t cover PT without a doctor’s referral – know your plan and ask your doctor about your treatment options while you are there! The question dancers always skip during injury diagnosis: How can I ease my pain?
- Remember, dancers are not the average Americans who just want a magic pill. Your doctor may prescribe you a medication that would make most people happy, but you may be able to avoid taking the medicine (and paying for it!) by asking what alternative options there could be, such as a lifestyle change, massage, etc.
- Make sure your questions have been answered and you feel good about your treatment plan before you leave the office. If you are not satisfied, seek a second opinion. You are your body’s best advocate!