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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Better Care at Lower Costs - Should I Have a Test to Diagnose My Health Problem?

Make sure you understand how any medical test will help you before you agree to it. For instance, ask your doctor if the test results would change how your health problem needs to be managed. Think about your willingness to have treatment or make lifestyle changes if you tested positive for a health problem. The only good reason to do a test is because the benefits to you outweigh the risks and costs. No test can be done without your consent. For more information, see the topic Smart Decisions: Know Your Options.

Medical tests are expensive. If you need a test, do your part to make sure that you do not have to repeat it. The tips below can make a big difference:

  1. Follow instructions about how to prepare. Are you supposed to stop eating the night before? Not drink alcohol? Stop taking medicines, or take a special medicine? Get written instructions from your doctor or nurse, and follow them. This reduces the chance of error and the need to repeat the test, which saves you money. Before you have a medical test, look it up on this website so you know more about the test and what you need to do.
  2. Keep a copy of all your results. Get a copy of the full test results, even if they are normal. You may get a printed copy, or you may be able to see your test results online. Do not assume that no news is good news. If you do not hear from your doctor, call to get your test results. This helps in three ways:
    • It makes sure you have the results if you later need to compare them to past or future tests.
    • You have a backup record in case you see a different doctor who does not get your test results from your previous doctor. If you can provide a copy, he or she may not have to repeat the test.
    • Having the results helps you better understand what's going on with your health.
  3. Don't have tests more often than you need to. If you have a health problem that requires frequent tests and you are worried about the cost, tell your doctor. Maybe you can go a little longer between tests. Maybe you can have a less costly test some of the time and the more expensive one less often.
  4. Ask about options, and shop around. The cost of some testing can vary widely without any difference in how reliable the results are. For expensive tests, it may pay to compare the costs of your best options.
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