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New Year’s Resolution #1: Preventive Care and Negotiated Costs

Posted Jan 12 2011 11:50pm

Photo by The Shopping Sherpa via Flickr

Photo by The Shopping Sherpa via flickr.

For $99 a year, Sam’s Club shoppers can access :

a personalized, step-by-step health management program designed to help people take control of their individual health.  Via an online health assessment and at-home blood test [measuring cholesterol, blood glucose, and Hemoglobin A1c levels]… members can take the first steps in identifying potential individual health issues.  From there, a personalized plan is created to address risks.  Personal health coaching, ongoing support, a variety of tools and a plan-wide health challenge are provided through The Prevention Plan to keep members motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Although the Plan includes a 24/7 nurse line, 20 online education programs, recommended prevention screenings, and a detailed member report, it isn’t a substitute for regular health insurance… or for a primary care physician.  In a CNNMoney report, U.S. Preventive Medicine CEO Christoper Fey suggested that shoppers “[t]hink of it as what a financial planner does.   He takes all the information you provide, assesses the risk and gives you a plan on how to improve your financial health.  The prevention plan does a similar thing, but for your health.”  In the same report, a director of health policy at Families USA, a consumer advocacy group, said that she “worr[ied] about people thinking of this prevention plan as a substitute for an annual checkup at a doctor’s office.”

Participating in preventive care and services makes a lot of (dollars and) sense.  Okay, a little lame joke.  Seriously, though, why sit around when you can take measures to try to maintain your health and to prevent certain diseases from occurring?  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act recognizes the benefit of preventive care and services remember, there’s that provision concerning free access to important screenings, tests, vaccinations, and the like.

Yet I’m somewhat skeptical about the benefits of paying $99 to enroll in this Sam’s Club Plan.  For starters, it sounds like the same kind of educational information and health tips can be found on other sites such as WebMD … and at no cost to the consumer/patient.  Okay, well, maybe WebMD doesn’t come with a 24/7 nurse line.  Yet after you take the at-home blood test, upload the results, and figure out your health summary, you’ll still need to consult a doctor to figure out whether any additional screenings are required.  So take that $99 and add to it the cost of your co-pay… or whatever you might pay out-of-pocket if you don’t have insurance.

Speaking of which, be sure to check out a recent New York Times article which reminds us how (most of) everything in life is negotiable, including healthcare and prescription costs.  Similarly, a NPR blog post discusses how some drug manufacturers offer coupons or subsidy cards to reduce prescription costs–but as Kate Matos mentioned the other day here at HRW , that too comes with a cost.

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