The Biggest Lie You’ve Ever Been Told About Preventative Care
Preventative care — a type of health care focused specifically on preventing disease — is voluntary. A doctor can’t force you to get blood drawn for testing, or make you join a smoking cessation program. Many people choose not to take advantage of these services because they’re too expensive. A common counter-argument is that preventing a disease now will save you money later in life. Is that true?
Do these services really save you more money in the long-term? Will they really keep you healthy and extend your life? Don’t believe the biggest health care lie you’ve been told — but do take into consideration how you still might benefit anyway.
What is preventative care?
The term “preventative care” covers a range of health care services — from vaccines to cancer screenings to disease prevention counseling.
Doctors and other medical professionals recommend this type of intervention either to prevent someone from getting sick altogether or to make sure an illness someone already has doesn’t get worse. For example, a flu shot might prevent you from dying from the flu. A referral to a dietitian might prevent your high blood sugar from causing another chronic condition.
Next: Think you’ve never had this type of care? Think again.
Types of preventative care you’ve probably paid for
Even if you’ve never been screened for a chronic condition like cancer, you’ve likely paid for preventative care more than once in your adult life.
Something as simple as an annual physical still costs money, even if your insurance provider ends up paying for most of it. Blood tests, dentist and eye doctor visits, and prescription drugs all technically fall under this health care umbrella.
Next: Are these services free?
Who gets these services?
The cost of preventative care depends on the type and where you’re getting it. Technically, anyone can access it — if they can afford it.
Around the start of flu season, for example, you can usually go to your local pharmacy and get a flu shot for cheap. Some services, like screenings to detect cancer or diabetes counseling, are covered by many insurance plans.
Next: Everyone thought the ACA would help decrease spending. Were they wrong?
Affordable care doesn’t decrease spending
Providers and professionals alike assumed that more health care coverage would decrease costs. Unfortunately, when it comes to health care spending, these expectations fell short.
Some emergency departments noted, for example, an increase in the use of and spending on their services once insurance coverage increased. Once preventative care became more affordable, people used it more. In many cases, it was still more convenient than seeing a regular doctor.
Next: Does a cancer screening test actually prevent cancer?
Does it really prevent disease?
As with cost, whether or not a service prevents a disease depends on the type — and the person receiving the care. Everyone’s case is different. Catching breast cancer early might reduce the chances that the cancer spreads, but the outcome won’t be the same for everyone.
Unlike the economic assumptions, efforts to prevent disease actually do prevent disease — that’s why they exist. Mammograms are effective in certain cases, and you’re less likely to die from breast cancer if you get them when you’re supposed to than you are if you don’t.
Next: Should you get those tests done after all?
Despite the costs, preventative care can work
Preventative care doesn’t reduce health care costs. However, just because it’s expensive does not mean it isn’t worth it.
Think about it. Has a flu shot ever prevented you from getting the flu? Have prescription drugs ever relieved your symptoms? Has a treatment ever cured you of an illness entirely? While not all types of care work for every person the same way, your chances of overcoming a health problem increase regardless.
Next: Not all prevention will cost you your life savings.
Is there such thing as free disease prevention?
Your doctor can offer plenty of costly prescriptions and screening tests to detect and control things like high blood pressure and diabetes. They sometimes make “free” recommendations, too.
Has a physician ever told you to start exercising? Suggested you eat more vegetables? Recommended you drink less alcohol? Not all lifestyle changes cost money. You don’t always need a gym membership or an expensive diet program. Small modifications take time — but chances are, they’re worth the time.
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