Reasons to visit the doctor each year have been diminishing over time. Doctors no longer require yearly pap smears or routine pelvic exams for women. Even though visiting the doctor can feel like a check in rather than a checkup, the health benefits of regular routine exams are still important. According to the CDC, regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances to live a longer, healthier life. Your age, health and family history, lifestyle choices (i.e. what you eat, how active you are, whether you smoke), and other important factors influence what and how often you need healthcare. If you’re in your 20’s, then there may not be a need for you to visit your doctor every year. Every other year is most likely better if you do not have any health conditions. However, if you are over 50, annual visits are a great idea to maintain your health.
Just visiting the doctor is not where our responsibility ends. We have to be our own health advocates, starting with knowing how our health insurance works. A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than 4 in 10 respondents do not understand basic health insurance terms, and even fewer could calculate how much a patient would owe under certain hospitalization circumstances. Equipping ourselves with knowledge of our health insurance policies decreases the likelihood of receiving high-unexpected health bills. It’s also crucial to review your medical bills. Billing companies often make mistakes and 8 times out of 10 they go unnoticed. Most importantly ask questions. Make sure you have detailed information on your health conditions and treatment options, and never feel self-conscious about getting a second opinion. Doctors are human and prone to making mistakes like the rest of us.
Navigating the world of healthcare can seem like a maze, but like the reward of navigating makes the maze worthwhile. Taking care of our health is one of the best investments we can make.