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Seven Easy Ways to Maximize Your Health Care Dollar

bankruptcyHealth care debt is one of the top reasons for families to declare bankruptcy.

Here are seven ways to maximize your health care dollar and tame this financial beast:

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1. Emergency Room: The Most Expensive Clinic

  • Unless you think you’re dying don’t go to the Emergency Room. An E.R. visit will cost you a minimum of $1000 just to walk through the door. And before you’re through you may have racked up $5K or $10K of “emergency” health care you really didn’t need.

    emergency Look for alternatives to the emergency room if  you get sick after hours:

  • Is there an “urgent care clinic” in your area? Check the phone book or Internet for a general medical clinic that offers after-hours service.
  • Can you call your primary care physician after-hours to determine whether you’re ill enough to need to go to the emergency department.
  • Call the hospital’s emergency department: Chances are they have a phone triage nurse who can help you make the decision as to whether or not to make the trip to the E.R.

2. Practice Preventive Health Care: Your health is ultimately 100% your responsibility

  • Obtain your annual screenings: pap smears, breast exams, mammograms, blood tests, prostate screens (if you’re  a man).
  • Take advantage of community health screening events at which they offer mammograms, blood tests, bone density scans and other services at reduced rates.

3. Watch your Weight and Exercise–Seriously obesity

  • It’s no coincidence that as our nation has gotten fatter, our general health has declined substantially. Two thirds of adult Americans are now overweight or obese.
  • Being overweight or obese increases your risk for all major medical illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, cancer. And these are the most expensive illnesses to treat. Yet they are some of the most preventable of diseases.
  • If you need to, join a formal weight loss program–many are now on-line. Remain conscious throughout the day of what you’re putting in your mouth and how it will affect your health:
  • Are you eating fast food? How many times per week? Try to cut it down to once per month or less.
  • Are you cooking at home? You’re more likely to eat healthy and eat smaller portions if you cook your own meals. Plan a weekly grocery trip and if necessary, devote time on weekends to pre-prepare meals for the week.
  • Get Moving: None of us has the time to exercise. We are all too busy and have a million excuses. We have to make the time and value our health enough to devote one-half hour per day to moving our bodies. Find ways to incorporate exercise into your day: Walk at your lunch hour. Ride your bike or walk to work. Take stairs instead of elevators.

4. Evaluate and make use of conservative options to treat medical conditions.

Many studies have shown that invasive treatments such as knee surgery, back surgery, and hysterectomy really do not provide significant benefit over less invasive treatments. For joint and back problems, look into physical therapy, yoga, and exercise. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine a few years ago revealed yoga is as effective as spinal surgery in relieving symptoms for people with chronic back pain.

Many common gynecologic problems such as abnormal bleeding can be managed with conservative measures at a fraction of the cost of a hysterectomy. Hysterectomy, the second most common surgery after cesarean section, costs an average of $40,000 including hospital charges, operating room time, anesthesia charges, and the surgeon’s fee. Alternatives to Hysterectomy

You can always start with the conservative, non-surgical options, and if these fail to provide satisfactory results, proceed to the surgical treatment.

5. Keep Yourself and Your Kids Current on  Vaccinations:

  • Vaccination against preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, influenza, and streptococcal pneumonia prevent millions of illnesses annually, lost work days, and can save billions in health care dollars.
  • There is no scientific evidence vaccines are linked to autism and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

wheel 6. Generics: Just as Good, Maybe Better

If you need any proof of the enormous profit margin in new brand-name drugs, you only need to look to the resources drug companies spend on advertising. Commercials touting the new drugs, Internet ads designed to seduce you into the fallacy: “Ah this is something new! Something better!”

Often new drugs are offshoots of “old drugs” designed because the patent has run out on the previous drug. The “old drug” may actually be more effective; sometime’s you just can’t improve upon the wheel.

Research generic options for your medications. Try them out. If you don’t like them you can always go back to the expensive new Cadillac drug.

Freedom 7. Develop an End-of-Life Plan and Write it Down

  • Eighty percent of our health care dollar is spent on the final six months of life paying for fruitless measures to prolong death.
  • Think about how you want to live your death and the legacy you want to leave your children. Leave your family a written plan. Do you want them clustered around your bed while you lie comatose on a ventilator? This is not how I’d want my family to remember me. If I die from “old age” I want to go in grace and peace free from machines and  hospitals.
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