The Medical Minute: Take a Loved One to the Doctor

By John Messmer

Chances are, you probably have been to a doctor at one time or another. Maybe it was for an illness or a routine checkup. If you have not been in for what we call “health maintenance” or what used to be called the routine physical exam, call your doctor to ask if it’s time for a checkup based on current age and gender recommendations.

How about other people in your life? Are there people who matter to you who have not been to the doctor for an assessment of their health in a while? Now would be a good time to get them in for a checkup.

People over 65 and with disabilities have Medicare to help cover the cost of evaluations, but currently Medicare does not pay for regular health maintenance examinations. That will change in January when the new health care law adds preventive examinations to Medicare coverage. To see a timeline of what the law will cover and when, go here online.

Often the reason for not getting a routine exam is lack of insurance or not having a primary care physician. Finding a physician at Penn State Milton S Hershey Medical Center is easy. Just go here and click on “Find a Practice.” Outside of the Penn State Hershey area, check with state and county medical societies or the state department of health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, lack of insurance is a major reason why people do not get preventive health care. This is a problem particularly in nonwhite Americans for whom preventive medicine might reduce the disparity in overall health and mortality. The Office of Minority Health of the Department of Health and Human Services has extensive information on this topic here.

One source for finding health insurance is here which also has a wealth of information about preventive health, the new health care law and more. This site can link visitors to what kind of coverage is currently available in any state depending on one’s particular circumstances. And government funded health centers are available on an ability to pay basis in many areas. Find one near you online.

Preventive care now reduces problems and cost later. Availability of care and options for payment are increasing, but don’t wait if you or a loved one has not been evaluated in a while. Not looking is not the same as not having a problem. If problems are developing, it pays to find them before damage is done.

John Messmer is associate professor of family and community medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and a staff physician at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

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