Take Control of Your Health Care Decisions… or Someone Else Will! [Part 2 of 2]
Listen, but be a little Skeptical
This is perhaps the hardest part of taking control of your own care. You want to listen to the advice of your health care team, but you also need to know when to probe their recommendations or seek a second opinion. It can be a difficult balance; you will have to determine when a little skepticism is helpful. However, there are some unique times when you should be suspicious.
First, any time that you are given information or a recommendation that has a substantial impact it might be a good idea to ask for a second opinion. It is easy to become comfortable with a single professional that is organizing your care, but it is wise not to become too reliant on any individual, no matter how smart they are. If there is big decision to be made, then ask for a second opinion. It might give you an alternative to think about or it might reinforce the previous recommendation. Either way, you will be more informed and confident that you made the right choice.
The other time that you may want to be a little suspicious is when care options are framed in terms of what your insurance or Medicare will pay for. A good provider will keep you informed about your coverage, but if it feels like treatment decisions are being driven more by money than medical considerations you might want to ask for some answers. Whenever someone talks to you about “approved” care options before your doctor discusses it with you, your care might be taking a backseat to profits. Likewise, when you are believe that you are entitled to specific medical care do not give up on it if you are initially told that the costs are not covered, especially by Medicare. Medicare puts strict requirements on hospitals and skilled nursing facilities that in many instances force the facilities to provide care without the ability to collect any additional payments from Medicare or you. If you feel that you need care, then ask the facility to reevaluate the request. Ask if Medicare benefits have been exhausted and if they are obligated to provide care at no cost to you.
Health care providers should always put the care of people before profits, but you cannot rely on this type of behavior from every care facility. Year after year “respectable” individuals and “reputable” companies are caught stealing millions of dollars from Medicare. Some of them were outright thieves, but others were simply trying to bend the rules for the sake of money. It is naïve to believe that there are not other health care providers doing their best to maximize profits. You owe it to yourself to make sure that money does not trump your health care. You need to take control of your health care decisions, because if you don’t, you can be sure that someone else will.