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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Second Opinions

If your doctor tells you that you have a health problem or suggests a treatment for an illness or injury, you might want a second opinion. This is especially true when you're considering surgery or major procedures.

Asking another doctor to review your case can be useful for many reasons:

  • Doctors have different styles. Some may be more likely to suggest surgery or other major treatments. Others may suggest a slower, wait-and-see approach. Getting a second opinion can help you weigh the pros and cons of their treatment plans.
  • You can be well-informed before you make a health decision. Another opinion allows you to discuss your options with a qualified doctor. For example, you may have to choose between traditional or robotic surgery. It’s good to think about the benefits and risks of both types. Or you might be considering different types of cancer treatment and want to visit several hospitals. Or another doctor’s opinion might shed more light on your diagnosis. The extra opinions help you make educated decisions.

Sometimes, though, waiting for a second opinion can hurt your health. If your doctor says you’re having an emergency, such as a severe injury or health crisis that needs treatment right away, you may need to skip the second opinion.

When getting another doctor’s opinion, keep these steps in mind:

Find out if it’s covered. Many health care plans cover second opinions, but it’s good to find out before you make an appointment. Medicare will help pay for a second opinion as long as it’s for a treatment that’s medically necessary.

But even if you have to pay out of pocket, the second opinion may be worth the cost.

Get a name. Ask your doctor to suggest another source for a second opinion, whether it’s a specific name or a facility.

Don’t be embarrassed about asking. It’s a common request, and your health is the most important thing. Most doctors will be happy to help you find another source.

You can also take these steps to look for a second doctor:

  • Consult your state or local medical society.
  • Check the web site of an area hospital for experts who treat cases like yours.
  • Ask friends and family for names of people who may have faced something similar.
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