How preventive care can lower your health care costs

A picture of a man in a doctor's office

What is preventive care?

Preventing a health problem now is much better (and less costly) than overcoming one later. Preventive care aims to detect and treat common conditions as early as possible – when outcomes are better and treatments may be less expensive. It also includes immunizations to help prevent common illnesses and protect vulnerable populations.

Preventive care visits often include screenings for high blood pressure, cholesterol and certain types of cancer. Your primary care doctor will help you make the right choices to keep you and your family healthy. They may talk to you about lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, to help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and other conditions.

How can preventive care help lower my health care costs?

It’s tempting to avoid going to the doctor when you’re feeling fine. However, many chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer, may have no symptoms until they’ve reached advanced stages.

“Getting age-appropriate screenings, based on national guidelines, is the best way to find common conditions early,” explains Stephen Mohring, MD. “That way, you can begin treatment when it's less invasive, less costly and will have fewer complications.”

Studies suggest that regular preventive care is associated with:

  • Improved health outcomes
  • Lower mortality rates
  • Reduced emergency department use
  • Decreased rates of preventable hospital admissions
  • Better coordination of chronic disease care
  • Higher patient satisfaction

Where can I go for preventive care?

The best place to start with preventive care is with your primary care doctor. This can be a doctor trained in family medicine, internal medicine or geriatrics. Primary care physicians are well-versed in age-appropriate cancer screenings, immunizations and tests to ensure your long-term health. They can also give a referral when necessary.

“It's essential to have an established relationship with a primary care doctor,” says Dr. Mohring. “That way, when problems arise between annual checkups, you already have a provider who’s familiar with your medical history.”

Primary care providers can also help patients get the best care for their needs. “Preventive care should be tailored to the patient, their health risks and family history,” explains Dr. Mohring. “They know your family medical history and can make sure you have the appropriate screenings based on the latest guidelines.”

Nebraska Medicine uses the patient-centered medical home model for preventive care. The PCMH model surrounds the patient with a care team customized to their needs. This team includes not just the doctor but also nursing care, social work, behavioral health, pharmacy and nutrition.

Your primary care team can help:

  • Review and renew your prescription medications
  • Review and interpret your lab test results
  • Arrange for annual exams, flu shots and other preventive screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies
  • See you for non-emergent symptoms of illness
  • Affirm a condition you believe you have from talking to other sources (friends, family, online) and recommend evidence-based treatment
  • Give you a referral to a specialist
  • “The PCMH model is focused on setting our patients up for long-term success,” says Dr. Mohring, “both in treatment of their current conditions as well as prevention of future diseases and long-term health.”

What can I expect during my visit?

Preventive care visits will vary by patient. Usually, they include taking a detailed family medical history to help identify risk factors for chronic disease. Your doctor will review your lab results with you and screen for mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. If needed, your doctor may refer you to specialists for additional care.

For Medicare patients, annual wellness visits include advanced care planning, dementia screening and fall-risk assessment. For every patient, the goal of your annual visit is to create a plan for your long-term health.

Is preventive care covered by insurance?

Coverage for preventive care will vary, depending on your insurance plan. Most commercial and government plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover an annual wellness visit. This benefit typically covers a visit with your doctor, recommended screening tests, labs and immunizations.

Before your preventive care visit, check with your insurer to determine which services are covered. If you don't have insurance, some services can be costly. In that case, check with Patient Financial Services to see if you’re eligible for financial assistance programs through Nebraska Medicine.

Need a doctor?

A primary care provider can help you stay up to date with preventive care. Schedule a new patient appointment or call 800.922.0000.