But as a patient, if you are actively involved in your health and health care experience, evidence shows you’ll get better results and pay less.
Active involvement doesn’t mean that you see a doctor more frequently or even that you understand every element of the health care system. It means that you have an understanding of your health and health goals and that you work closely with your care team to meet those goals by asking questions and taking steps toward a healthier tomorrow. Ultimately, it allows you to personalize your health care experience and make sure all elements are in your best interest – for your health, wallet or overall peace of mind.
Here are 4 steps that allow you to become more actively involved and take the reins when it comes to your health care:
Step #1. Take advantage of “freebies.”
Your health insurance plan comes pre-loaded with free doctor checkups, screenings and vaccinations. This no-cost preventive care is intended to help you stay healthy, and you can catch and treat small problems before they become major health issues.
To find out what’s free for you, go to your health plan’s website for a detailed list of preventive care based on your age and gender.
Step #2. Be a health care consumer.
You wouldn’t buy a kitchen appliance or an SUV without shopping around, but lots of people never comparison shop for health care services.
A study by George Washington University found appendectomy prices ranging from $1,529 to $186,990 and hip replacements starting at $11,100 and going as high as $125,798.
How can you shop?
Some insurance companies, like Priority Health, offer an online Price Estimator that lets you compare prices at hospitals and other facilities in your network. It’s easy to use, and it can save you hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars.
Step #3. Ask your doctor some good questions.
It’s important as a patient to ask questions. Don’t be scared. By asking questions, you can become well-informed on why the doctor is prescribing a certain prescription or treatment. This will ultimately make you feel more comfortable.
To make these conversations easier, Consumer Reports teamed up with doctors from dozens of different specialties to provide detailed questions and information around common procedures and tests. Check out Choosing Wisely for good questions to ask your doctor and common sense advice for all kinds of ailments, from the common cold to cancer, and everything between.
Step #4. Stay active. Eat right. Live longer.
Seven out of 10 deaths are caused by chronic disease. You can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other illness with good nutrition and an active lifestyle. Experts recommend exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Staying healthy and fit doesn’t need mean boring sit-ups and jumping jacks at the gym. Walking, biking, gardening and swimming are all good forms exercise. Even housework counts if you really put your muscle into it.
Managing your weight matters, too. The Centers for Disease Control report that medical costs for people who are obese average $1,427 more per year than the costs for people with a healthy weight.