The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 26, 2005

Being a savvy health care consumer

By Judy Rupp, Commentary

Judy Rupp


Health insurance and health care costs have become a major issue for many Americans, and there are no easy answers. But whether you have good health insurance, poor insurance or none at all, it makes sense to be savvy health care consumer.

EXAMINE YOUR COSTS: Choosing a family doctor or dentist is not something you want to do on cost alone, but you should never hesitate to question a charge you consider high or a treatment that you think is unnecessary.

Studies have demonstrated that the oldest and least expensive blood pressure medications — diuretics and beta blockers — are just as effective as other choices for most patients Your doctor may have a good reason for choosing a more expensive drug and should not mind your inquiry.

For most medications and other treatments, there are numerous options, and if your doctor knows you are cost conscious, they are more likely to prescribe a generic or lower-cost option.

Going to the doctor when you have a cold is an unnecessary cost and will not save you any misery or lost time from work. Colds are caused by a virus and will not respond to antibiotic treatment, and the unnecessary use of antibiotics put everyone at risk of antibiotic resistance.

Visiting the emergency room for a non-emergency illness is another way of abusing the health care system and increasing health care costs for everyone.

KNOW WHEN NOT TO SELF-TREAT: With the over-the-counter products readily available, it’s easy-but not always wise-to self-treat.

The herbal supplement St. John’s wort has been found in some studies to be effective for mild to moderate depression, but it also can interfere with the action of some prescription medications. And depression is a life-threatening condition that should be monitored carefully by a mental health professional.

PROTECT YOUR HEALTH: By far the best thing you can do to cut health care costs, both for yourself and the system, is to stay healthy.

Abundant information is available about the benefits of following a healthy lifestyle: eating a low-fat, high fiber diet that includes at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables; controlling your weight; getting regular exercise and not smoking.

BECOME KNOWLEDGEABLE: The internet has made detailed health information readily available. There is a lot of unreliable, inaccurate information on the Internet, but there is a wealth of good material available on sites operated by the American Medical Association the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health.

Every decision that is made regarding health care has multiple repercussions that all involve cost — both short and long term — as well as personal well being. By being an informed consumer, you can make decisions that will keep you healthy, wealthy and wise.

Rupp is information and assistance case manager with the Northern Oklahoma Development Authority Area Agency on Aging.