Why Regular Health Checkups Make Financial Sense

Routine checkups with your doctor not only help you stay healthy, but they could save you money, too. The appointments help your doctor find diseases early, when they're easiest to treat. During these visits, your doctor can spot the warning signs of a health problem and give you advice on how to prevent it.

Chronic conditions like diabetes and arthritis cost Americans more than $1 trillion to manage each year. But checkups can save you money by preventing diseases or catching them early, which lets you avoid expensive treatments in the future.

You Might Lower Your Medical Bills

At yearly visits, your doctor can flag health risks like smoking, weight gain, and alcohol use before they have a chance to cause full-blown diseases.

Smoking is the No. 1 cause of diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and COPD. By one estimate, smoking costs the average person more than $1 million over a lifetime, which includes the cost of health care needed to manage smoking-related diseases. If you smoke, your doctor can suggest counseling, medication, and other methods to help you quit before you get sick.

Too much weight puts you at risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions. That may be why people who are overweight pay nearly 40% more in health care costs than those who are at a healthy weight. Your doctor can suggest ways to lose weight, like dieting and exercise, to trim those extra pounds, lower your chances of disease, and save you money on medical care.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to problems like heart disease, stroke, cancer, and liver disease. Excess alcohol use costs the average American more than $800 each year. If your doctor thinks you might have a drinking problem, they can give you advice on how to quit.

You Can Avoid Medicine

You're more likely to have chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease as you get older. And you may need to take medicine to manage these conditions.

Nearly 70% of people over 45 take at least one prescription drug, and almost 40% take three or more drugs. Medicines can be expensive. The more of them you need, the more money you'll spend.

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People 50 to 64 pay an average of $237 "out of pocket" (not covered by insurance) each year for prescription drugs. By age 80, you can expect to pay over $500 a year for medicine.

If your doctor finds during your checkup that you have risk factors -- things that make it more likely for you to get a disease -- you can take action to prevent it. Or your doctor may be able to spot early symptoms of disease that let you get a head start on keeping it under control. For example, some people with early type 2 diabetes may be able to skip medicine and instead manage their disease with diet, exercise, and weight loss.

You Might Avoid Surgery

Some diseases cause problems that need surgery. People with arthritis may need a joint replacement or another procedure to fix joint damage. Those with poorly controlled diabetes may need weight loss surgery to treat their disease. If you have a heart attack, you might need surgery to open or bypass a blocked artery.

An operation can be expensive. For example, a bypass procedure costs an average of $50,000. And if you don't have insurance or your plan doesn't cover all the costs of your procedure, you could pay thousands of dollars.

Preventive care helps to diagnose diseases early. If you can start on treatment right away, you may be able to avoid more serious complications that need surgery.

Preventive Care Won't Cost You

If you have insurance, you can get checkups at no cost to you. Most insurance companies will cover 100% of the cost for checkups and preventive services like blood pressure tests and vaccinations.

Your Company Might Pay You

Regular checkups don't just save you money. They also cut costs for the employer that provides your health insurance.

Many companies today try to lower their health care costs by rewarding their employees for staying healthy. Some employee wellness programs offer insurance discounts or even pay people to stop smoking, lose weight, or meet other health goals.

To get paid, you'll have to keep track of your diet, exercise, and other measurements. And you'll need to reach certain goals to get your reward.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 08, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Heart Association: "Cardiac Procedures and Surgeries."

American Lung Association: "Tobacco Cessation."

CDC: "Alcohol Use and Your Health," "Data on Excessive Drinking," "Health Care Industry Insights: Why the Use of Preventive Services is Still Low," "Health Effects," "Prescription drug use in the past 30 days, by sex, race and Hispanic origin, and age: United States, selected years 1988–1994 through 2013–2016," "Regular checkups are important," "The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity."

Cleveland Clinic: "Bariatric (Weight-Loss) Surgery for Treating Diabetes."

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: "Background: The Affordable Care Act's New Rules on Preventive Care."

Georgetown University: "Prescription Drugs."

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Employer Health Incentives."

HHS.gov: "Preventive Care."

JAMA Surgery: "Drivers of Payment Variation in 90-Day Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting Episodes."

National Institute on Aging: "Supporting Older Patients With Chronic Conditions."

University of Rochester Medical Center: "Can You Control Diabetes Without Medicine?"

UW Medicine: "Basics of Surgery for Arthritis."

WalletHub: "The Real Cost of Smoking By State."

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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