Put simply, preventive care is what catches health problems before they become chronic or permanent issues, which is proven to increase lifespan and decrease medical costs throughout all phases of life.
If you’re generally healthy, preventive care visits tend to be uneventful so it can be tempting to forego a few months or years of check-ups, but this is a mistake.
Even if you feel healthier than ever, preventive exams can catch health conditions that start with little to no noticeable symptoms. Screenings and tests have saved many lives—including some of the healthiest people alive (gold medal-winning gymnast, Shannon Miller, who survived ovarian cancer).
Skipping preventive care is also forgoing a resource you already have, since most health insurance plans cover preventive care costs completely even if you haven't hit your deductible. Along with that, preventive care does as its name suggests, prevents future health problems, and what’s considered preventive might surprise you in a very good way!
Increase your life expectancy and decrease lifelong health costs using preventive health benefits
There’s only so much you can do to increase your life expectancy through a healthy lifestyle. How do you know the habits you’re following are working and preventing health issues? Routine exams, testing and screenings are the best way to catch potential problems before they become real health issues. They’re also usually covered 100% by your insurance.
Catching diseases before they become too serious can drastically reduce the cost of future medical treatments. When caught early enough, simple lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on preventing a disease or condition from becoming life-threatening.
And if you’re healthy, knowing your family health history and keeping tabs on any health-related events that happen each year can bring awareness to problem areas to be mindful of, which can prevent future diseases altogether.
Great, but why did I get a bill from my annual exam? Preventive vs. Diagnostic Care
Yes, often we go to a preventive treatment such as an annual physical exam and end up getting a bill in the mail. This is because of diagnostic services that come up.
Diagnostic services are different from preventive services and may leave you on the hook to cover copay or coinsurance expenses (or sometimes costs aren’t covered at all). If you’re not sure whether you’re seeking preventive or diagnostic care, here’s an easy way to tell: Diagnostic care looks at a problem you’re already having.
If you’re unsure, you can always ask your doctor if services are preventive or diagnostic (Journi users can ask a Care Guide when researching or booking care).
Preventive care starts with primary care
Most of us start out as children seeing a pediatrician—sometimes the same one until we’re 18! As an adult, a primary care doctor will fill this role instead, so finding one you trust and like is important. This provider will be the one you go to the most and get to know the most. Even as health-related activities arise that require specialists, your primary care provider will keep track of that health history and form the full picture of your personal health.
Primary care doctors are also important when it comes to referrals. If you want to meet with a specialist or you are working with a specialist who recommends health equipment, some (not all) health plans require referrals/approvals from your primary care provider. (If you’re a Journi user, a Care Guide can let you know what your plan requirements are for referrals.)
Example: A physical therapist might recommend a knee brace as a part of rehab, but, in order to get the brace covered through insurance, you’ll need to order it through your primary care doctor.
Ultimately, having a primary care doctor will save you time by being a single point person who already knows all about you. Think of them as that friend you only see every few months to a year but when you do you pick up where you left off!
Self-care treatments that are often covered for preventive reasons
Here’s where things get good. You’d be surprised to learn that some health plans cover services that might feel pretty luxurious such as chiropractic care or medical massage. This is a lot more common than you might think!
After all, think of all the physical and mental health issues something like a massage could prevent such as skeletal issues to stress-induced heart problems.
While not typically 100% covered like other preventive exams, services like chiropractic care and medical massage, physical therapy, occupational therapy and more are considered elective preventive care.