Friday, January 4, 2008

Health Care and You

When you start looking around for health care plans, there are alot to choose from but few that may actually help you based on individual needs. Many health plans are only offered through employers, and some are only available in certain regions of the country or at certain times of the year. Usually, the choices come down to cost as many health care plans often have similar benefits. "What can I afford" is the most commonly asked question when most people are evaluating a plan for themselves or their family. Tragically, the cheapest ones may not be the best.

According to the latest report issued the last day of December, 2007, by the US Census Bureau, more than 303 million Americans greeted the New Year. After massaging all the births, deaths, and net immigration figures, the country is growing at the rate of one person every 13 seconds. That's a bunch of new faces! And in all this growth, the people looking for health care also continues to increase each year. With choices ranging from full catastrophic coverage with High Deductible Health Plans, to PPOs and HMOs trying to manage care, to Mini-meds, to Discount Health Plans, to Big Box Health Clinics who cater primarily to the uninsured, there are a variety of options to consider. Care clinics, although convenient, are not a quick fix to the nation's health care crisis; but they are just one step in getting consumers the necessary care they may need if no primary medical practitioner is available. According to the US Census report issued in August, 2007, there are approximately 47 million Americans with no insurance--some by choice, some due to lack of availability, and some because of lack of funds.

Additionally, Wal-Mart, Target and other retailers are offering generic prescriptions for their customers at highly competitive pricing--hundreds of medications are available for as low as $4, driving down costs and applying that to the health care business. Four dollar meds will get your attention fast, especially if you are a senior citizen or without insurance coverage. And consumer groups have applauded this action by these companies. Let's face it. Everyone needs a break once in a while, and these cheap prices offered to consumers for generic medications have been a tremendous savings mechanism generating hundreds of millions of dollars to Americans. Health care is expensive with a plan, and without a health plan it's even more costly.

Choosing the right health care options can be confusing, especially when you start reading the language in most health plans and insurance offers. Spend some time doing research online and with others whose opinions you respect. Find out what works for them, and where they found it, and any other resources you can dig up. Don't just go with the first thing you see. A little self-education goes a long way when you are sourcing health care options.

The Joint Commission International Center for Patient Safety has some great tips for evaluating health care. Look on their website to get an idea of topics and considerations when choosing various health care options. They have great questions to ask when looking for health plans, long term care, and many other health care choices. Discover queries on everything from coverage and fees, to access, to member rights, to quality, and more. These questions should be asked when looking at your options. This is just one source, and it is a good way to get started. The internet is a phenomenal source for research, and studying your options intelligently with good, reliable information is a great way to find out what you should consider for your health care.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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