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Preventative Screenings Are No Good Without Early Treatment!

Updated on March 11, 2012

It's easy to get me started on the topic of health insurance. Our family has had many major health issues. Fortunately (so far), all of our health issues have been addressed in early stages. That's the key.

Ten years ago, I was all for prevention: get check-ups, get screenings -- if there IS something wrong, find out and treat the issue before it gets full blown.

I was excited, at first, about the new health care focus on preventative care. It SOUNDED great. But, I am now wondering about this over-focus on paying for preventative care and early detection, without corresponding support for early treatment.

Now, costs are covered as long as everything's fine -- but don't most of us have health insurance so that we can have bills covered when things aren't fine?

I am a 9 year breast cancer survivor. For the first 7 years after my mastectomy, I was able to get my annual mammogram covered under my health plan. That was UNTIL this over-focus on preventative screenings.

Last year, I was shocked to receive a large bill from the radiology service, after my mammogram. When I called to question the charges, I was told by the lab, that - under the new health laws - I could essentially never again have a screening (free, preventative) mammogram. Because of my cancer history, all mammograms are now considered "diagnostic", even if I have no complaints or symptoms. It's all in the way it now is coded.

Doesn't this seem counter-productive? Shouldn't a person with a cancer history be encouraged to do regular screenings? Shouldn't the health insurance companies want higher risk patients to be attentive to follow-up care? (After all, those higher risk patients are paying higher premiums!)

Fortunately, I can afford to pay for my annual mammogram -- but what about the other breast cancer survivors who can't? (The same question holds true for other cancers and illnesses -- breast cancer is just the example here).

Which leads me to the next example: My 27-year-old daughter was unemployed for several months last year. She continued to carry personal health insurance, while she was out of work, at a premium cost of $500 per month (in Los Angeles). During this period, she discovered a lump in her breast. She actually was not going to get the lump checked out, and then was not going to proceed with a biopsy, because of the money. In spite of the fact that she paid a healthy monthly insurance premium, she had a $5000 deductible on her health policy -- and therefore she couldn't afford to pursue early treatment.

Again, in this case, I was in a position to help her pay for the scans and biopsy - and, fortunately, her lump was benign.

But, I kept wondering about other young women, who might have an issue, and who simply can't afford diagnostic testing and early treatment.

Early detection, and early screenings are only as good as early treatment. There's no use telling someone that they are in the beginning stages of a major, treatable illness, unless that person can pursue early treatment.

And, it's the early treatment that saves lives - and which truly saves money. If diseases progress to later stages, they are much more costly to treat - and, often the treatments are too late to be effective.

I got into the preventative care discussion with one of my long-term doctors last year. He expressed frustration, too, with the way that the system has evolved. He says that he's mandated to prescribe "preventative screenings" for people at certain ages. Sometimes, according to him, these screenings are completely unwarranted for a particular individual -- and extremely costly -- adding to the overall costs for everyone.

Instead of a blanket schedule of preventative screenings, shouldn't we move back towards trusting doctors to order screenings that are appropriate for each particular individual patient?

And, more importantly, shouldn't more focus be put on providing coverage so that individuals are able to pursue early diagnosis and early treatment....?

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