Today we co-hosted a tweet chat with Money Crashers on the topic of healthcare costs. If you weren’t able to join us, then you can view a full transcript of the #mcChat to learn more from the super engaged personal finance community on Twitter. Even more, we recruited our favorite pediatrician, and social media power user, Dr. Nanette Nuessle to answer your Top 10 healthcare questions.
Here we go!
In what ways is our financial health connected to our physical, emotional, cognitive, mental, and spiritual health?
Depression is strongly linked to poor financial health. Poor financial health also leads to different choices at the grocery store, which in turn impact wellness. We tend to buy foods that are less nutritionally dense and higher in calories, salt and fat when our financial health is poor.
What are cost effective ways to use good nutrition to fight bad health?
The best thing you can do is avoid processed foods. Most of us cannot even pronounce the ingredients of the foods we put into our bodies much less understand what those things actually do to our bodies. Eat whole foods. While I’m not a homeopath, I do know that certain spices have health benefits. These include, but are not limited to garlic, ginger, and turmeric. So cook those whole foods at home. Use a wide variety of spices and discover flavors other than salty and sweet.
If you want to take it to the next level, then avoid fried foods other than stir fry. If you eat meat, then use lean grilled or broiled meats. But most importantly, track the foods you eat. In my professional opinion, every adult should know how many calories they consume on a daily basis, their sodium intake, the %protein, %fat, and % carbohydrates of their daily intake. This is easy to do with the apps that are freely available. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t know what to change. We, as a nation, have to start taking personal responsibility for our nutrition.
Staying fit keeps a person healthy. How do you break a sweat without breaking the bank?
Walking is one of the best exercises in the world. If you can’t walk in your neighborhood, then walk in the nearby mall. Take stairs. I live on the 6th floor of an apartment building. I sometimes walk up and down the 6 flights of stairs for 30 minutes. I hate it, but I do it because it’s good for me. Check out your local parks and see if there is exercise equipment you can use. Make weights at home with emptied milk containers. Fill them with varying amounts of water to make different weights. Use them as dumbells.
My last piece of advice on exercise: Turn off the TV. Turn on the stereo. Then dance!
Medical debt is a leading cause of bankruptcy & homelessness. How does a consumer deal with and prevent medical debt?
This is a tough one. Keep in mind that bankruptcy doesn’t typically occur due to regular every day healthcare expenses. They usually occur in cases of a catastrophic health event. In addition to your typical health insurance, it is a good idea to consider a critical care policy, which covers costs related to recovery from major illnesses. You can also consider a long term care policy, which helps cover the cost of long term care not usually covered by a typical insurance policy.
In what ways are patients getting smarter about how they spend money on healthcare?
They ask more questions. Patients and parents are asking about the cost of prescriptions at the time of their appointment. They ask about less expensive care alternatives. This is an everyday thing that anyone can do to help bring down healthcare costs. Sometimes I can offer them options and sometimes I can’t.
We need more price transparency in healthcare. What steps can be made to make patients more confident about their healthcare choices?
We do need to get better about providing cost transparency. In pediatrics, I seldom get asked about the cost of tests or imaging studies. If asked, I would not be able to answer as I am not given that information in a readily available form, if at all.
Until price is made transparent to physicians, there is little hope it will be passed on to patients. It is a major source of frustration for me. However, there are still things patients can do. If you are planning a pregnancy or a surgical procedure, then research your physician. Check their rate of c-sections (you want it to be low) or surgical complications, including post-operative infection. If the surgeon is sloppy, it can cost you a lot of time and money in additional procedures later on down the line.
What are some top tips for keeping down prescription costs?
As opposed to buying a one month supply at your local pharmacy, you should consider getting a 3 month supply and having it shipped to your home . However, you still need to ask your provider if cheaper options are available. This doesn’t just mean generic choices but also other brand name choices. It’s best to avoid the drugs that are brand new if you can. They tend to be 3-10 times more expensive as the drug they just replaced, often without any substantial benefit.
Patients often need to balance the cost of care versus their choice in healthcare provider. How have you handled this balance?
At my current assignment, our population is 70-80% public aid. So, this has not been an issue for me. We take any insurance and even patients without insurance. So, there are always options. However, I will admit that these choices have had dire financial consequences for me personally.
For those that are self-insured, what do you do to keep down the cost of care?
I exert a lot of effort to reduce healthcare costs for all of my patients, and I’d like to think I don’t treat the self pay patients any differently. However, I do look more closely at “earliest safe discharge,” and I make a greater effort to educate self pay patients about their choices.
In the area of population health, what can we all do to help keep our communities healthy?
If we all took responsibility for our nutrition and fitness, then that would make a huge difference. And, of course, smoking is still unhealthy, as is too much alcohol. If we raise families and communities that share healthy habits, then we have gone a long way towards growing healthy populations.
Thanks Dr. Nuessle! Any healthcare questions you’d like to ask? We would love to find answers for you.