Hold On Doc, Do I Really Need That Test – and other news

by DavalosMcCormack on July 20, 2010

A few weeks ago my mate Tim wasn’t feeling well so he went to the doctor. Reluctantly. Not because he doesn’t love the doctor but because he didn’t have health insurance and so everything was going to have to come out of his pocket. He went in and explained his situation to the people in the doctor’s office, saying he only wanted done what absolutely had to be done and so they agreed to tell him the cost of everything up front so he could decide if he needed it and could afford it. Pretty reasonable eh!

Fast forward a few weeks and he gets a bill for $700, this despite having paid in cash for everything he had done at the office. Turns out that they forgot to put the cost of the x-ray on the bill. Now Tim didn’t need an x-ray, the doctor just wanted to do it to be “on the safe side” and somehow they forgot to tell Tim how much it was going to cost. So, a few irate phone calls later and the doctor agreed to drop the bill.

If that were an isolated story you could easily put it down to a case of mistaken communication. But a new study shows that nearly all doctors order more tests than they need, more tests than they think are necessary, in order to avoid malpractice lawsuits.

Doctors Over Test Just To Be Safe!

A survey in the Archives of Internal Medicine asked more than 1,200 doctors around the U.S.: “Do physicians order more tests and procedures than patients need to protect themselves from malpractice lawsuits?”

The results were a tad unsettling; 91 percent of physicians said yes, meaning nine out of ten doctors think other doctors call for way more tests than are needed. Think about that next time you visit your doc. When they say let’s just order an MRI or an x-ray or a blood test, “just to be on the safe side” stop and ask them if it’s really needed. They may be doing it just because they’re scared that if they don’t you might come back one day and sue them.

Now, you might think that because you have insurance, and it covers an MRI, and it would be cool to see what your brain looks like sliced up into computer images, that yeah, what the heck, let’s go for it, it’s not coming out of my pocket. But it is. One way or another, sooner or later, that money is coming out of your pocket because someone has to pay for it and you know it sure isn’t going to be the insurance company or the physician. You pay for it in higher premiums, larger deductibles, higher taxes to cover the cost of caring for the uninsured.

So maybe next time your doctor says “maybe we should try this”, tell them “maybe we shouldn’t”.

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Sick about not having sick leave

More than 50 million Americans have jobs that don’t provide them with sick leave, so if they catch a cold or the flu they are faced with a pretty nasty choice, stay home and lose a day’s pay or go to work and risk infecting all your colleagues.

So it’s not really surprising that a new survey by the Public Welfare Foundation found that many of those faced with that choice, choose to go to work:

  • 55 percent of those without paid sick leave have gone to work with a contagious disease such as a cold or the flu, compared to only 37 percent of those with paid sick days
  • 20 percent of those without paid sick day coverage used the Emergency Department of a local hospital because they couldn’t take the time off work, compared to 10 percent of those with paid sick leave
  • 24 percent of those without sick day coverage sent a sick child to school, compared to 14 percent of those with paid sick leave

The bottom line, not having paid sick leave means millions of Americans are going to work sick, they’re making their colleagues sick, who spread it to other people. No wonder then that this is costing our economy billions of dollars a year in lost wages and lost productivity.

Even more worrying is the fact that the PWF survey found that nearly one in six Americans lost a job because they had to take so much time off to deal with a personal or family illness.

That’s just sick.

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