DEAR DOCS: When my doctor prescribed a statin, I asked for the brand name. She was able to use some kind of computer program to tell me that a 30-day supply would cost $340. Then she found out that if I chose the generic equivalent, it would cost me absolutely nothing! I was so surprised she could get that info before I went to the pharmacy! Can all docs do that now?
DEAR ADAM: Not all docs and health care organizations can let you know what your prescription will cost, but it’s becoming ever-more common.
Some, like Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic, can tell you how much a procedure — hip, knee replacement — will cost depending on your insurance plan, because the clinic controls most costs. Others, like your doc, are “in network” with your health care insurance provider and have access to software that shares that information.
The technology has been slow to catch on, however.
Kaiser Health News reported that the fourth largest health insurance company in the country introduced its drug-pricing tool in 2015, yet today less than 10% of its in-network doctors are using it.
It seems likely that some docs don’t have the office support staff to manage the software and don’t feel comfortable with the technology, or they don’t want to take on one more task that cuts into the time they have to spend with patients.
That said, more and more health care systems are providing real-time, out-of-pocket drug prices to doctors and the public, and they also can let you know before you go to the pharmacy that preauthorization is required.
A big boost: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has mandated that Medicare drug plans embed a drug-pricing tool in doctors’ electronic prescribing system starting in 2021. That will help millions of folks avoid sticker-shock at the pharmacy, where tens of thousands of prescribed meds are left sitting on the shelves every year.
DEAR DOCS: I have a new job, new insurance and a new doctor. He’s said I have to get active and lose weight or I’m going to be in big trouble in a short amount of time. I don’t have great ankles and have never liked working out. I know I’m not perfect, but what’s the point?
— Garth A., Orlando, Fla.
DEAR GARTH: The point is that you are in a great position to take control of your health and become a happier and healthier person. New job, new doc, new life!
We don’t know exactly what your doctor told you, but something clearly rattled your cage. So, remember this: It’s never too late (even for folks in their late 70s or 80s) to reap the benefits of becoming more physically active, which include lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, many cancers and cognitive decline.
A recent study published in the journal BMJ found that when sedentary folks gradually became more active over five years, working up to getting the minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderately intense aerobic activity, they became 11% less likely to die from any cancer and 29% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Now, if your ankles are keeping you from moving around, see an orthopedic doctor for a diagnosis and solution. Ankle injuries are one of the most common in the entire muscular-skeletal system, so there are a lot of treatment options and the chances of rehabilitating your ankles are extremely good. Also, try exercising on a stationary bicycle or elliptical machine, or swimming. They can be easier on your ankles than jogging, running or a step class.
Once you start being more active, you’ll feel better immediately, and if you get up to 10,000 steps a day (or the equivalent, one minute of swimming equals 70-100 steps) and 300 minutes of activity a week, that BMJ study found you’ll be 42% less likely to die prematurely from any cause.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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