The drivers of health care costs are certainly myriad and complex, but there are some things we can do to help get rid of unnecessary care and expenses, and improve our overall health. Below are different ways we can get healthier while addressing some drivers of health care costs.
1. Make Informed Health Care Choices
A typical emergency room costs at least five times more than an office visit. A phone call to your doctor before getting care at an urgent care center or emergency room can help avoid costly and unnecessary bills. Some health plans offer telephone or online consultations with physicians. Independent Health offers Teladoc, which gives members access to a physician by phone or mobile app anytime, anywhere.
Services at free-standing facilities typically cost less than hospital-based services facilities. Ask your physician if you can have a pre-planned test done at a freestanding facility instead of a hospital.
A national campaign, Choosing Wisely, by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, is a great resource for consumers in learning how to make better informed choices and decisions.
2. Be Proactive – Schedule your annual preventive visit and preventive screenings
Perhaps one of the easiest things we can all do to help address health care costs is to stay up to date on our preventive visits and screenings. So, it’s helpful to have a primary doctor you trust and see on a regular basis. Plus, preventive services are covered in full: Independent Health covers more than 60 preventive services with no copayment or cost share.
3. Get a Flu Shot
On average, a person with the flu is sick for three-to-five days. Since flu can be easily transmitted between people, especially among close contacts such as co-workers, friends and family, the impact of one case of flu can multiply quickly. Ask your physician about getting a flu shot. Flu shots are even offered at a variety of locations in the community, or through your employer.
4. Become More Physically Active
It’s easier than you think to become more physically active. Try parking farther away from your work entrance, or take the stairs instead of elevators – the benefits might surprise you. One research group has estimated that 90% of adults can prevent weight gain by changing their energy balance by as little as 100 calories daily through a combination of reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity.
Exercising more and eating better can also help reduce systolic blood pressure by as much as 10 millimeters, which can significantly cut the risk for heart attacks and stroke.
And, Plus One: Quit Smoking (or for the majority of us: don’t start)
Although smoking rates have decreased significantly over the years, it remains the leading cause of preventable death in our country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States every year. For those who feel reluctant, afraid or powerless to stop smoking, there is very effective help available. To obtain more information, your health plan or the New York State Smokers’ Quitline are good places to start.
Many chronic illnesses are preventable, and healthy lifestyles play a big role in this. Some of the steps toward wellness are more difficult to take than others, but many health plans offer help in making steps to wellness. Independent Health offers a variety of options to help members make healthier choices, such as our nutrition benefit; FitWorks Wellness program; Zipongo®, a digital platform that makes it easier to cook and choose healthier meals; and Brook Health Companion, which provides personalized health support through a mobile platform.
Whether it’s taking a daily walk, or scheduling a preventive visit with your doctor, the choices we make can help us get healthier in the long run.
Disclaimer: The above commentary entails the views of the author and not necessarily the views of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.