Four ways to keep medical expenses down, on the doctor’s advice
As governments increasingly become cash-strapped, cuts to health care expenditure inevitably follow. In over 30 years in the medical profession, we have seen numerous patients and their families burdened with medical expenses, and it has reportedly become a leading cause of personal bankruptcy in America. What can one do to keep medical expenses down?
First, acquire information. An informed patient not only tends to be healthier but also spends less on medical expenses. Several sites give clear and reliable medical information. After seeing a doctor, ask for the diagnosis or possible diagnoses, recommended tests and procedures, and suggested treatment. Knowing all this allows the patient to look them up and weigh the benefits and risks before making any decision.
Second, live healthily – that’s the best way to keep medical fees low. The smoker spends money not only on cigarettes but also, possibly, multiple medical visits to treat heart and lung issues.
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Third, for treatment to succeed, faith is essential but seek a second opinion. In this day of increasingly profit-motivated medical services, getting a second opinion about any serious condition is important. However, there is a right and a wrong way to do so.
Understand clearly what the first doctor has said by getting a written report with the names of the diagnosis, tests and recommended treatment. Keep a set of all tests done. Then, when seeing the second doctor, present all these to him, but allow him to repeat them or do any other test he wishes. After that, again get him to clearly name his diagnosis, test and recommended treatment. Ask any question you like, but please do not add words like “this doctor says so”. It is irrelevant who says anything, though it is always your right to ask for clarification. Too often patients clearly show their distrust of an opinion and are preoccupied with something they have heard, sometimes even from non-medical sources.
Fourth, do not postpone death if it extends suffering. Emotional as this may be for patients, families and doctors, we must all try to remember that the aim of health care is to provide a good quality of life for as long as possible, and not merely to prolong suffering. This acceptance allows space for the exploration of options to make the time remaining pain-free and as comfortable as possible.
Dr Ong Hean Teik and Choong Yoke Leng, Penang