Save Money and Protect
June 1, 2012
Vol. 8, Issue 6
In our last issue,we saw how much you can save on health care by controlling the things that have the greatest impact on your health. Many diseases are preventable just by managing your weight and what you eat and drink, getting some exercise and not smoking. This time, I’d like to show you what you can do at the doctor’s office to reduce your medical bills and, quite possibly, improve your health care. I know you are saving on premiums with HSA plans, and here’s how to save on out-of-pocket costs, too.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
A coalition of nine physician groups has come up with “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question.” It’s not only that 30 percent of health care may provide little benefit, but also that some procedures can actually cause a problem.
Imaging tests for lower-back pain are just such an example. Alower-back x-ray usually runs from $200 to $285. An MRI costs between $875 and $1,225, and a CT scan can go up to $1,520.Back pain usually improves in about a month, but a study is projecting 1,200 new cases of cancer from 2.2 million CT scans performed for lower-back pain.
Imaging scans aren’t just used on the back. CT scans of the head can have as much radiation as hundreds of chest x-rays. And, experts say CT scans and MRIs for headaches rarely provide more information than thorough medical histories and neurological exams do.
EKGs and exercise stress tests are critical if you’re at high risk for or have symptoms of heart disease, but such tests may result in unnecessary treatment when you’re healthy. Follow-up tests like coronary angiography and CT angiograms pack a radiation dose equivalent to hundreds of chest x-rays. Plus, a CT angiogram can cost $1,000. So, how do you make an informed decision? Ask questions:
- What are the possible risks of this procedure or treatment?
- Is there some other way that is safer or simpler?
- What happens if I don’t have the test or treatment?
- How do the costs of different options compare?
- How will I know if the treatment works?
Ask Your Doctor about Antibiotics
You also need to ask questions about antibiotics because unnecessary antibiotics can hurt you in two ways. You need certain bacteria in your gut to make vitamins and strengthen immunity, but antibiotics wipe out helpful and harmful bacteria alike. Probiotics are important to replace beneficial bacteria.
Some researchers also warn that antibiotics may contribute to allergies, asthma, cancer, obesity and type 1 diabetes in children. Martin Blaser, MD, heads the department of medicine at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. He urges greater care in prescribing antibiotics, especially for pregnant women and babies.
Blasersays studies show a child’s risk for inflammatory bowel disease corresponds to the number of antibiotic courses taken. On average, a child has had 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics by age 18. Studies by the Human Microbiome Project also suggest that bacterial imbalance in the esophagus and stomach may contribute to cancer.
The link between antibiotics and obesity isn’t well understood, but it is well known. The New York Times reported that more antibiotics are fed to chickens, cows and pigs in North Carolina alone than are prescribed for all humans in the U.S. Antibiotics are used to make animals grow faster and increase profit margins. Industrial factory farms medicate all animals with antibiotics in the food and water.
One way to cut down on antibiotics is to ask questions. Antibiotics can’t fight viruses, but you may be given antibiotics for something caused by a virus. Among adults, 15 to 21 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are for sinusitis even though the cause is often viral.
A Journal of the American Medical Association study shows doctors prescribed antibiotics for more than 60 percent of adult upper respiratory tract infections. Such infections are often caused by a virus instead of bacteria. Even more alarming, a 2010 study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology revealed that after tests indicated a viral rather than bacterial cause, doctors kept patients on antibiotics.
Asking questions about the appropriateness of tests and treatments may not only reduce your medical bills, but may also keep you safer. Another way to reduce your medical expenses is to get the lowest negotiated rates through www.HSAforAmeica/member-benefits-bill-review.htm. It’s free to sign up for professional bill negotiation and the only fee is 30 percent of the reduction. If they negotiate a $1,000 bill down to $700 and save you $300, for instance, they only charge you 30 percent of the $300 you save.
To your health and wealth!