Wise Healthcare Consumer Month is a time to consider best health choices

The rising cost of healthcare is a concern for most Americans and is so serious that many may cut back on their health needs to save money, according to the American Institute for Preventive Medicine (AIPM).

It doesn’t have to be that way if individuals and the companies where they work would embrace intelligent health planning. AIPM launched Wise Healthcare Consumer Month in February so that people can learn about ways to become better healthcare consumers.

The institute sums up wise consumer behavior as knowing how to choose the best insurance plan for a family’s needs, choosing medical providers carefully and communicating well with health professionals. That includes asking questions, examining costs and shopping around for the best medical insurance, which are steps that businesses also need to take to provide the best health plans for their employees, according to AIPM.

Wise medical choices also mean taking a proactive approach to self-care, such as knowing when to treat oneself at home, understanding prescriptions and practicing preventative care whenever possible.

For instance, February is also a time to learn about ways to minimize heart disease because it’s American Heart Month. Losing excess weight to control cholesterol and blood pressure is one method. Taking dietary supplements, such as CholesterLite, is another way. CholesterLite is rich in omega-3 oils that have been recognized by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy ingredient.

Healthcare costs
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a research division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reports that the average American can pay as much as $3,000 annually for health-related expenses through deductibles and medical bills not covered through insurance companies.

Despite this expense, the AHRQ found that most people choose higher-cost health plans because they equate the quality of healthcare with cost.

However, the best plans for their needs may not be the most expensive. Higher costs are also sometimes be the result of overlapping or unnecessary services that consumers don’t need, the agency reported.

To make sure consumers are getting the best value in quality of care as well as cost, FamilyWize.org recommends that people ask the following questions when they are choosing a healthcare plan: How much are the deductible and co-pays for specific services, such as doctor visits or trips to the emergency room? What will a plan cover for hospitalization and will there by a daily charge? If there is a prescription plan, what is the cost of generic versus brand name drugs?

The website also counsels individuals to make sure their family doctors and specialists are within the approved network if they choose a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) as their health service. Extra charges usually apply when people use a doctor not included in the HMO’s list of providers.

Proactive approaches
Wise Healthcare Consumer Month is a time for people to consider not only their choice of doctors and insurance plans, but how to make the most of the medical services they will use.

AIPM suggested consumers prepare for each healthcare appointment with a list of their concerns to save time. They should be knowledgeable about their medications and not be shy about questioning whether they are necessary and if there are alternatives.

Being proactive in knowing what medical tests are needed for certain conditions or should be started at a specific age is another way to choose the best healthcare that is available. In some cases, a home medical test may be able to accomplish the same thing as a more costly procedure done at the doctor’s office.

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