Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 22, 2013

Forum: It pays to be informed

BY BOB VAN ECK

---- — Many people plan for college, a home purchase and retirement, but what about planning for health care? Planning ahead with preventive care isn’t a high priority for many people. In fact, according to Partnership for Prevention, only 37 percent of adults receive the main preventive service recommended each year: a flu shot. Often overlooked, preventive care is key to getting and staying your healthiest. And since most health plans cover the entire bill for this type of care, being informed of the recommended services and benefits can take you a long way not only physically, but with your wallet as well.

Visit your doctor before you’re sick

It’s important to schedule a visit with your physician before your health status declines and you require one. The goal of preventive services is to deter and detect health issues – such as diabetes or heart disease – before they happen. Think of it as routine maintenance for your body, similar to changing the oil in your car.

Getting the right care

The federal preventive care recommendations depend on age group and health status. For children, immunizations and yearly physical exams are important, but often missed. Screenings for blood pressure, hearing, vision, obesity, developmental issues, depression and alcohol and drug use are also recommended and usually covered.

For adults, physical exams are important every few years until age 65, when they should be done every year. This checkup might include things like a blood pressure screening, cholesterol check and possibly cancer screenings, depending on your age.

Specifically for women, screenings and counseling for breast and cervical cancer, domestic violence and HIV are valuable. Most are now covered in full as preventive care by health plans.

The benefits outweigh the inconvenience

Whether it’s a vaccine, screening or counseling, preventive care seeks to help patients stop a problem from developing. For example, if preventive care discovers a patient’s high blood pressure, immediate steps can be taken to prevent further costly health risks, complications and related diseases from happening. Preventive care can help identify and address risk factors for serious illnesses as well, which can save you time and money, and increase your quality of life.

Under federal health reform, many preventive services are now covered in full by most health plans. If your health plan is grandfathered under the Affordable Care Act, you should review coverage levels.

Getting the most out of your preventive care

Being an engaged and informed health care consumer helps you get the most out of preventive services and the time you spend with your doctor. Understanding preventive care guidelines and your health plan, along with having open conversations with your doctor about these services, can keep you healthy, save you money and help you know what to expect during your appointment.

For more information on preventive care guidelines, visit the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force at uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org. And for a full list of recommended immunizations go to the Advisory Committee for Immunizations at cdc.gov.

About the author: Bob Van Eck is vice president of clinical quality improvement at Priority Health

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.