Who won’t agree that prevention is the most economical form of healthcare? Yet, a recent government study showed that 55% of all Americans do not receive preventive services such as:- immunizations, – screening tests, and – education about healthy habits and injury prevention.
It used to be simple: everyone needed a standardized “complete physical” exam once a year. But in the 1980s, an independent committee of physicians called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that over the long run, it doesn’t pay off in terms of better health and longer life.
The good old head-to-toe physical became unnecessary for healthy people, since it yields too few benefits for its cost. Some routine tests, such as chest X-rays, electrocardiograms (EKGs), urine tests, and complete blood counts are now reserved only for people with symptoms or risk factors.
No wonder that both doctors and patients are confused by contradictory recommendations. What should a medical checkup consist of? Does everybody need an annual physical? Should all men get a PSA test? At what age should a woman start having mammograms?
Experts will continue to argue, but each of us has to make his/her own choice. With insurance premiums constantly rising, simply getting an access to preventive services is a serious financial challenge, but there are some alternatives that give us hope.
The most promising is the idea of so-called patient advocacy via health care savings programs. The availability and popularity of these programs is picking up year after year, as more and more people, unable to get or afford health insurance, are discovering them for the first time. These programs negotiate prices with health care providers on behalf of their members. Since they represent large groups, the resulting discounts are usually the same that the hospitals and physicians give to big insurance companies.
Unlike traditional insurance model, the patient advocacy actually encourages people to seek medical help as soon as the need arises thus preventing “little aches” form developing into life-threatening illnesses and financial disasters. Monthly membership fee is affordable and no one can be turned down because of a pre-existing condition.
Many of such programs also allow their members to contribute money to medical savings accounts. Federal law makes this an attractive option, because medical savings accounts are tax deductible or not taxable at all, as long as the funds are used to pay for healthcare.