No matter which team you cheer for, what your political party is, or whether or not you think pineapple is an appropriate pizza topping, there is still one thing we can all agree on: Healthcare costs are ridiculous.
There are lots of reasons this is the case, many of which we have no control over. As individuals, we can’t change the structure of our hospitals, the way our prescription drugs are priced, or the fee-for-service model our doctors operate under. We can’t reduce administration costs, and we can’t change the fact we love our expensive screenings and diagnostics.
The good news is that there are some things we can do to keep our individual and family healthcare costs down. They may not be big, exciting, life-altering changes, but in our own little ways, we can take steps to reduce health expenses and improve health results.
And yet so often we don’t actually do them.
Instead, we fall into patterns and habits that make our ridiculous healthcare expenses even more ridiculous.
Here’s how to be your own worst healthcare enemy:
1. Consult with Dr. Google
Have a symptom? Or two? Or seven? Just Google it! Chances are you’ll come up with sixteen different conditions, at least three of which are fatal. In no time, you’ll be at your primary care doctor, begging for referrals and testing. And because your physician knows the stress of self-diagnosis can be dangerous, she will go ahead and order those tests.
Dangers: Your blood pressure and anxiety will rise. You will think you’re dying. Fearing for your life, you may try to reunite with your long-lost neighbor or cousins.
Cost savings: How much is a CT scan? An MRI? An EKG? We’ll never know. Until the bill comes, that is.
2. Avoid establishing a primary care physician
Why would you call a doctor when you’re not even sick? So dumb, right? I mean, why spend precious minutes getting set up with a physician who can actually help you when something does go wrong? This would take away all the fun of frantically trying to get an appointment with random doctors all over town while you have a 103-degree fever. Seeing the same doctor regularly allows them to become familiar with you and your medical history instead of always starting fresh. So boring!
Dangers: You may not be able to get care when you need it. If you do get seen, your diagnosis could be less accurate. You may avoid going to the doctor entirely— or head to the ER instead. You might let your drunk uncle diagnose you with Small Pox on Thanksgiving.
Cost savings: Did you see that part about going to the ER? Have you ever been to the ER? Have you ever gotten an ER bill? What about a misdiagnosis? Treating someone for the wrong thing isn’t cost effective. Neither is avoiding the doctor until a small problem becomes a big one.
3. Don’t get a second opinion
Did a doctor say you need an expensive test, medication, or procedure? Did you simply take their word for it? Even though you had a nagging feeling it wasn’t necessary or appropriate? If you’re feeling unsure, it’s okay to get a second opinion. Yes, it means an additional office visit, which will cost you in the short run. But if it helps you better evaluate your diagnosis and treatment options, it can also do wonders for your wallet— and your peace of mind.
Dangers: You may get treatments you don’t need. You could forget how to ask questions and/or advocate for yourself. Your doctor will start seeing dollar signs when you walk in the door. You could become a medical zombie.
Cost savings: The right diagnosis and treatment is important for your health— and your bank account. High expense does not equal high value. And here’s a not so fun fact: Some medical providers may have referral relationships with other providers, which means they could be benefitting from suggesting procedures, treatments, equipment, and drugs you don’t need.
4. Ignore telemedicine
Easy, quick, and inexpensive medical consults from the comfort of your couch? That’s the stuff of fairy tales! You should definitely be suspicious of this new technology. Plus, who would want to give up those time-and-money-sucking trips to the urgent care clinic? If it doesn’t take three hours and include a co-pay, it must not be real medicine.
Dangers: Wasting time and money on germ-spreading trips to the doctor. Having to drag your sick, cranky toddler to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy.
Cost Savings: Spend less money on gas, parking, and co-pays. Eliminate mandatory bribes for sick, cranky toddlers.
5. Stick with your unhealthy habits
- Are you still smoking cigarettes and paying for that gym membership you never use?
- Do you think Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are a major food group?
- Are you into street racing and base jumping?
- Did you give up sunscreen back in ’96?
- Do you hate seatbelts, helmets, and anything else that might keep you safe and healthy?
Yes, life is short. And you should enjoy it. But you probably aren’t going to enjoy the medical bills that accompany these unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Dangers: Chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and COPD. High risk factors for cancer and other diseases. Perpetual orange fingertips from those dang hot Cheetos.
Cost Savings: Do you know how much those cigarettes cost? Fewer speeding tickets, car repairs, and expensive emergency surgeries. Oh, and you might fit into your old jeans again.
Do yourself a favor
The healthier you are, the easier it is to prevent expensive treatments and avoid getting constantly dragged back into the healthcare system.
A few small choices can make a big difference. Ditching bad habits can save you money— and maybe even your life.
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