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Health and Wellness


In his monthly column, Dr. Kent Herbert answers your questions related to health care matters. Simply submit your question to It’s your chance to ask the doc.Question: Health care is getting more expensive. What can I do to reduce my costs?Answer: Health care costs are increasing and represent a large portion of a typical family’s budget. In 2007, $2.2 trillion was spent on health care in the United States, triple the amount spent in 1990. This translates to just over $7,000 spent on each person in the United States each year. Health insurance can help to offset some of these costs, but these are rising as well. In 2005, the average yearly premium for a family for health insurance was $10,700. While there are plans to help control these costs, it is often best to start with an individual or family, where small changes can have a large and immediate impact.The first step to reduce health care costs is to keep healthy. It is important to practice a healthy lifestyle, including eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and avoiding unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and overeating. People who do this will be sick less often and will miss less work and visit the doctor less for illnesses. In addition, most major diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can at least in part be avoided by practicing a healthy lifestyle. It is also important to maintain preventative health practices, such as getting a yearly physical, and having regular preventative tests such as colonoscopies, mammograms and pap smears as recommended by your doctor. Studies show that in tough economic times these are the first things that people cut from their budget, but they are in fact the most important to continue. In regard to medical economics, the cost of preventing a disease, or even detecting it early, is far less than the cost of treatment.Another measure to reduce health care costs is to consider switching to generics for the prescription medications you take. Most commonly used medications have a generic equivalent, and these may make good sense to use. A recent study showed that up to 90 percent of medical conditions can be treated with generics. If your doctor has started you on a name brand medication, simply ask if there is a generic equivalent. Most doctors are receptive to considering this option; and, if one is available, they can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of switching.To reduce health care costs, it is also important to know and consider your options regarding health insurance. It is important to know what services are covered, what your deductible, if any, is and what other costs you are responsible for. With economic difficulties rising, many people find that they have a higher co-pay or deductible than they previously had, and previously covered services are no longer covered. It is important to shop around, if possible, for a plan that meets you and your family’s specific health needs. If you have a deductible, make sure to budget for this and put away enough in advance to cover it.Finally, and probably the most important, find a doctor who knows you well and is interested in your health. If you have chronic medical conditions, a personal physician can develop a plan with you to maximize your treatment and reduce office visits and complications. For acute illnesses, a physician who knows you well can improve your time to healing by considering your medical history and tailoring a treatment plan to your needs. A personal physician will also consider things that may help prevent future illness, such as testing and treatment for underlying medical conditions. In short, they can look at the big picture of your health and not just at individual illnesses.By focusing on these items, one can reduce their personal health expenditures, and likely improve their health in the meantime. This will have an immediate effect on the budget and on quality of life. Your doctor is very aware of the increasing costs of health care, and most are receptive to discussing how you can develop a plan to reduce your costs.Dr. Kent HerbertBoard-Certified Family PhysicianFalcon Family Medicine7641 McLaughlin RoadFalcon, CO 80831(719) 494-2006(719) 494-8448

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