The Easiest Way To Save On Healthcare


Most financial writers, including me, counsel people to be their own advocate for less-expensive healthcare. We teach that you should question everything on your bill, know the limits and allowances of your health insurance policy, and negotiate prices where possible and look for lower cost options. All of this is great and can certainly save you some money. However, one of the best ways to save on your healthcare is also easy and within your control: Do what your doctor tells you to do.

I know many people whose doctors tell them to take certain medications, do certain exercises, or eat certain things and yet they won’t do them. Or they do them only halfway or only for a while and then stop. This is not going to cure or help you manage your condition. This is only going to result in more visits to the doctor, more prescriptions, and more health problems that never seem to go away. Granted, there might not be a complete cure for your medical problem, but your doctor is going to give you the best advice for how to manage and minimize that condition. Doing what he or she says is the path to wellness.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I’m currently in physical therapy for a back/hip injury. The exercises are killer and harder than anything I’ve ever done and that includes running 39.3 miles over two days. They aren’t fun, but I’m doing them because it’s the only way I’m going to get better and avoid being on pain pills for the rest of my life. Yet the other day a woman on the treatment table next to mine was getting reamed out by her therapist for not doing her exercises. She’s been in therapy for months and is about to exhaust her insurance coverage. The therapist was telling her that she would be better by now if she’d do what she was told, but the woman says, “I’m always too busy and it’s hard.”

This woman’s insurance will run out and she’ll still be in pain and probably paying for pain medication to deal with her issues. In a few months or a year, she’ll probably be back in the doctor complaining of the same problem again. However, if she’d done what her therapist told her to do, she’d be fine and not have to pay any more money.

I know someone else who, without his doctors’ approval, started cutting his pills in half because, “I don’t need that much and it’s cheaper this way.” Yet he’s always in chronic pain and his condition never gets better. Hmmm. Maybe if he took the drug as directed, he wouldn’t have a problem. This is also why some doctors use a drug testing service to make sure patients are taking their medication as prescribed.

Then there are the people who are told by medical professionals that their conditions can be managed or cured with some lifestyle changes such as more exercise, quitting smoking, or a specific diet. Yet they won’t make the changes. They’d rather head to the doctor every couple of months and take expensive medications and then wonder why their healthcare bills are soaring through the roof than eat better or go for a walk.

If you think your doctor is way off base with his orders, by all means get a second opinion. If you come across another treatment approach that you think might work just as well or better, by all means discuss it with your doctor. But if all the doctors say the same thing, you probably need to be obeying their orders.

Do what your doctors tell you to do. If you follow their orders exactly and you don’t get better, then it’s time for another conversation with the doctor or to find another one. But you’re never going to know if a treatment will work until you do what you’re told. If you don’t take your doctors’ advice, you won’t get better, or you might get better for a while but then relapse. You’ll have to make more visits to the doctor, outstrip your insurance coverage, and maybe stay on medications that you could have gotten off of if you’d done what you were supposed to do. Doctors aren’t infallible, but if you’re paying them for advice and help, doesn’t it make sense to take that advice and help and follow their instructions?

(Photo courtesy of Alex E. Proimos)

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3 Responses to The Easiest Way To Save On Healthcare

  1. Jay says:

    Sorry but disagree a bit: Doctors over prescribe, and order way too many expensive diagnostic tests.
    I was prescribed PT for a frozen shoulder: total waste of time if the doc had understood the why (taking unnecessary statins). Ultimate fix was to stop the useless statins.
    I know of folks getting a prescription for diuretics for a slightly elevated BP, rather than recommending a diet change first.
    Last regular physical, the doc ordered what would have been over a thousand dollars (deductible) in tests. When asked why –“screening” for issues I had almost no risk for, and certainly no symptoms; one was ordered simply because the insurance company wouldn’t pay for the cheaper, easier test.
    On the local news last night they addressed the overuse of colonoscopy vs an $8 home test….

    The most important thing you can do as a patient when your doc prescribes/orders something is to ask “Why”. Keep asking until you understand.

  2. Minny says:

    The biggest ways to keep your health are to eat properly, not eternal salads but the sort of food most people’s grandmothers and greatgrandmother’s cooked and fed their families.

    Walk more, there is no need to buy expensive gym membership or exercise equipment. These usually end up being unused within a couple of months anyway. Walk a couple of flights of stairs before getting the elevator. Increasing your movement within your daily life is much easier and often more effective than adding something like going to the gym.

    Examine yourself for lumps, take the periodic tests needed, mammograms, pap tests, and generally be sensible and follow up anything found quickly.

    Use the internet. The American Government print excellent recipe books, covering the main cultural groups, to help prevent high blood pressure, diabetis, heart problems. They are free and are worth using. There’s good information out there on how to keep blood pressure good, keep your weight right.

    It’s not rocket science!

  3. Gail says:

    I agree with the writer as to following your doctor’s advice but at the same time being your advocate for your health and asking them ‘why’ like Jay mentioned. The two go hand in hand. The point being if your doctor prescribes a pill that you start cutting it in half (and many pills shouldn’t be), let your doctor know you are doing it rather than letting them think you are taking the full dose. If you think you only need the half dose, discuss it with the doctor. If you think a test isn’t warranted tell the doctor why not, ask for recommendations on less expenseive tests. Your doctor is your friend but they can’t effectively treat you if you aren’t telling them the truth.

    Another important way to save is to become good friends with your pharmacist. These people are knowlegeable and able to explain and answer questions about your medication. I was once given a script for a medicine and they handed me a $75 off coupon for it at the same time. I know Medicare wasn’t going to cover any med that expensive. Talked to my pharmacist (who knows us and our limited finances) and he said this new med was basically the same as a pill I was already taking plus 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda–yes that less than a $1 box of baking soda. Obviously I wasn’t going to be paying over $100 for that!

    Questions your treatmens, questions your prescriptions, use the computer for more than seeing the latest stupid pet tricks on youtube and research what you are being treated for and how it is normally treated, etc. The internet is very powerful in being able to educate. You may not be able to get a medical degree with it, but it helps put you in charge of your health.

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