ow often do you get an oil change? If you don't know the answer, you'd probably know where to get it – a flip through your car's manual, which may still be sitting in the glove box. Or, you can easily find out online. (Answer: The old adage was every 3,000 miles, but now the advice is to review the manual).
But if the question were, "How often should you get your cholesterol checked?" or "Am I up-to-date on my immunizations?" There's no quick-flip maintenance manual for you or your body. Regularly checking in with your health care provider can help you maintain your health in the same way a visit for an oil change keeps your car's engine running smoothly – it's all about preventing bigger issues by pinpointing potential problems before they start. And if you do have an issue come up, your mechanic (or doctor!) will already be familiar with your circumstances and your history.
Preventing chronic diseases
Heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes – these are all known as chronic diseases, which means it lasts your lifetime and can be managed, but not cured. These are also diseases, however, which are often preventable through healthy lifestyle choices.
Visiting with your health care provider on a regular basis to receive guidance on making smart health decisions, along with receiving medical and physical evaluations and tests when necessary, can go a long way toward helping you avoid these diseases. You might consider seeing your primary care provider (PCP) once a year for a checkup (depending on your health, your PCP will make specific recommendations on the frequency of visits to meet your circumstances).
Emergency room or doctor's office?
In a 2010 report called "Where Americans Get Acute Care," the researchers found that of the 354 million annual visits for acute care (defined by the study as "treatment for newly arising health problems"), patients sought out their own doctors only 42 percent of the time. Twenty-eight percent of the time, patients went to the emergency room.
When people go to the emergency room for general, non-emergency care, the cost is much higher than it would be to get the same care at a regular doctor's office. Studies have shown that many uninsured people often seek medical treatment and health care services from the emergency room.
Two reasons account for this: One is that they don't have a primary care doctor, so it can seem like the easier option when they get sick. The other is that since the uninsured don't tend to see a doctor regularly, they are less likely to have a health issue caught and treated during an annual checkup. So they end up at the emergency room after the health issue has gotten worse. The bottom line is that preventative care can improve people's overall health and keep medical costs down.
AARP, American Public Health Association, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Consumer Reports, FAIR Health, Inc., HealthCare.gov, Internal Revenue Service, Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid.gov, Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Every effort was made to provide clear, accurate information about health care reform. We verified any information we had with first-tier sources – those who are involved in this change and its effect on our health care system. We also relied on well-respected national nonprofits, some who've done a masterful job of providing clear information to consumers. Our primary source of information was the Affordable Care Act's official website, HealthCare.gov. If you need additional information about how health care reform affects you, that would be your best place to start.