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Cutting Health Care Costs: You Can Be Part of the Cure

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

Our medical care is expensive for a lot of reasons. It does much more and we use it much more than ever before. It's an issue of great magnitude that affects everyone. So you may wonder if there's really anything you can do as one person to help reduce the cost of health care. Actually, there are many strategies you can use to save on your personal medical costs. Here are a few that may also improve the care you get.

For minor ailments, call your health care provider's office first for homecare advice. It may save you a clinic visit since many common symptoms can be handled over the phone.

Learn to self-treat minor ailments. Keep a current medical self-care guide handy. Experts estimate that eight out of 10 health problems can be cared for at home.

Tips:

  • If provided by your health plan, use the 24 hour telephone nursing service for home-care advice.

    Use emergency services for emergencies only. Emergency rooms charge more for routine services because they specialize in trauma and treating life-threatening conditions.

  • Know in advance who to call or where to go for medical help when your healthcare provider is not available.

    Urgent care facilities are an excellent means to take care of minor emergencies and family medical care too.

    If you're about to have surgery, ask about same-day procedures to avoid a hospital stay. Ask about alternatives to surgery. Discuss possible medications or other treatments with your care provider.

  • Check your health care plan literature to learn your benefits and how to access services such as referrals and hospital admissions.

    Question the tests being prescribed. Know how they will help you and try to have them performed on an outpatient basis.

    Know your claims filing procedure. Submitting duplicate claims costs millions of dollars in added administrative expense, which contributes to higher premiums.

    Ask your health care provider about scheduling regular screening tests. They can save your life by detecting problems early when they're easier to treat.

  • Some preventive tests may be covered by your health care plan.

    Listen to your healthcare provider. If you don't understand a treatment or other insurances, speak up or ask questions. You should also be specific when describing your symptom.

Practice preventive medicine by doing your own self-exams for blood pressure, skin cancer, breast cancer (women) or testicular cancer (men). Be proactive in your health care. Embrace a more healthier life style.

Adopt healthy habits. It's never to late to quit smoking, become physically active, accident proof your home and wear your seat belt. Start small rather than make radical changes in your lifestyles. Cut down on your fast foods, increase your physical activity gradually, start drinking more water. Soon you will note increased vitality and energy and even the loss of some weight.

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