How to Make the Most of Your Doctor’s Visits

Internist talks reform, diligence, open communication

0903_ENT Dr.Virgie BookCoverHealthcare reform may be right around the corner, but in the meantime what suggestions do you have for those who can’t afford full coverage?

I think it is criminal and immoral that the wealthiest country in the world can’t offer basic minimal healthcare to its citizens. Emergency medical care can bankrupt a person and keep them from doing things like buy a house.

Look into catastrophic insurance. With catastrophic insurance (also known as a high deductible health plan), you are still responsible to pay out of pocket for all of your preventive healthcare, but if you are hit by a bus and are hospitalized, you are covered. The premiums for that are much less than for regular insurance.

What advice would you give individuals who are struggling under debt from past medical bills?

Medical bills are the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. People put their medical care on their credit cards, and unfortunately they have to do it because it is an investment in their health.

Instead of paying medical bills, if and when you can get around to it, ask for mercy. The physician always outsources their billing to someone else. Appeal directly to the physician, not their billing company, because the physician might not be aware of the tough time you are having paying the bill. Try to work out a payment plan. If you talk with them and if you are proactive, they sometimes may reduce part of the bill, but it is unlikely that you will get it wiped out clean.

What motivated you to write this book?

The idea for the book came to me more than 10 years ago when I would sit and talk to patients as a physician in training at the Cambridge Hospital in Boston. There were so many things that I didn’t have time to squeeze into my patients’ 15 minute office visit. I thought there has got to be a way to get all of this information out at once.

Seeing patients in a practice is great if they can get to you, but I only see a small fraction of people for a small fraction of time. I wrote this book because I wanted to give the same information to everyone around the world that I wanted to give to the patients in my office.

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