There’s no better time than right now to invest in your health. Odds are you do it every day — even if you don’t know that’s what you’re doing.

From taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication for headaches, to setting weight loss goals or wearing a fitness tracker, most of us practice self-care every day without realizing it. New research from BeMedWise details just how common self-care is.

Among the report’s 2,000+ survey respondents:

  • 92% desire more control over their health
  • 89% say they know where to find answers to health questions or concerns
  • 80% feel the need to manage their health now more than ever before
  • 88% express confidence in making their own health decisions

The full report, titled “Empowering Americans to Take Greater Responsibility for Their Health,” examines how self-care can improve an individual’s health while also reducing medical costs.

It comes at a time where 6 in 10 U.S. adults are living with a chronic disease. Chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression together account for 90% of our $3.3 trillion healthcare budget.

However, the U.S. economy could save an estimated $6.6 billion if just 10% of those with a chronic disease adopted self-care practices.

Below, we’ll describe what self-care is and why it’s having a hard time catching on. Then we’ll send you off 

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Past blogs have discussed various ways to save on medication costs – pharmaceutical patient assistance programs, drug discount coupons, drug discount card, etc. Let me tell you about another way you may be able to cut your medication costs.

At NeedyMeds we receive calls from people who can’t afford their medications. Most are taking just a few drugs, but a significant number are taking 10 or more drugs – sometimes 20 or more drugs. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 82% of American adults take at least one medication and 29% take five or more medications.

Why are so many people taking so many medicines? In some cases the person has multiple diseases, all requiring their own medications. But sometimes not all the medicines are no longer needed. Here are a few reasons why this may occur:

Step Therapy

This is an approach used to treat many diseases. Let’s say your doctor discovers you have high blood pressure – hypertension. Your doctor would take a stepped approach to treatment. First, she would address lifestyle issues such as weight control, tobacco use, exercise, etc.

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Here at NeedyMeds we regularly refer people to their state’s Medicaid program, and in today’s blog post we are going to explain exactly what Medicaid is and how it functions. Are you currently enrolled in Medicaid? Share your experience with us in the comments section.

How is it Financed?

Medicaid, sometimes called Medical Assistance, is a joint federal and state entitlement program for people with limited income that helps to pay for medical costs. It receives a combination of funding from both the state and federal government. The amount paid to each state by the federal government, also known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage or FMAP, varies depending on multiple criteria, notably per capita income. From Medicaid.gov,The regular average state FMAP is 57%, but ranges from 50% in wealthier states up to 75% in states with lower per capita incomes. FMAPs are

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We’ve been getting a lot of questions from our readers about how the resources we list on our website, especially the pharmaceutical patient assistance programs, will be affected by the Affordable Care Act. While we are still far away from having all the answers, we do have some additional information we can provide you after attending a recent PAP Conference. The overarching consensus is that PAPs will continue to exist to help those in need that fall into the gaps.  Here is an overview of what we learned at the CBI PAP 2014 Conference, held in Baltimore on March 6-7.

Background

→ There are currently no shared processes between programs.

→ Open Enrollment ends March 31st

  • Negative image of Affordable Care Act in the media.
  • For those working with the disabled – visit the National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative for resources http://www.nationaldisabilitynavigator.org.
  • Many advocates are having trouble enrolling the population that has been uninsured for a long time, as they are not informed about how health insurance works at all.

→ Medicaid Donut Hole

  • In the states that have not expanded Medicaid, there are going to be folks too poor to be eligible for subsidies under the marketplace and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in their states.

→ Not everyone between 100% and 400% of Federal Poverty Level are eligible for subsidies. This, for example, can depend on age.

Pharma Priorities and Considerations

→ Priorities are to contain costs, increase quality, encourage innovation while enhancing patient access.

→ Legal Considerations.

  • Anti-kickback statute – always a legal issue for companies. Pharmaceutical companies cannot induce (or even appear to induce) patients to use a certain drug.
  • November 2013
    • HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter saying that plans purchased on a state or federally run market place are not counted as government sponsored programs.
    • Absent further guidance – these plans are going to be treated as private plans by Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), foundations, etc.

    → Lingering question – what happens when someone doesn’t pay or defaults on their premium? There is currently a grace period to

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by Rich Sagall, MD

You have an appointment to see your doctor about a health issue. It may be a new problem, a chronic issue, or an acute illness. No matter the reason, you are ready for a 10-minute visit filled with quick questions, a prescription or two, and some instructions. If you are lucky, some of your questions will be answered and you may remember a portion of what your doctor tells you.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are steps you can take to have a more satisfying and productive visit. You may not be able to do all of these at every visit and some may make you feel a little uncomfortable, but they are worth trying.

  1. Expectations – Before scheduling an appointment, think about why you want to see the doctor and what you hope to get from the visit. For example, if you are seeing the doctor for new back pain, are you looking for an x-ray, do you want strong pain medicine or do you want reassurance it’s nothing serious? At some point you need to tell the doctor what you want. That’s not to say you will get it, but being forthright makes it easier for everyone.
  2. Take a friend or family member – Many studies have shown that patients remember little of what doctors tell them during a visit, and doctors generally overestimate how much patients remember. A second person in the room, someone who is not experiencing the stress of being a patient, can better remember what occurs and help you better follow the doctor’s instructions. Remember – this person may hear very personal and potentially embarrassing things about you.
  3. Bring a list of questions – Actually writing down what you want to ask the doctor serves many purposes and helps to make the visit more productive. First, it forces you to really think about what you want to learn and state it succinctly. Second, it helps your doctor know what you want to learn. Bring an extra copy of the questions and give it to your doctor. Third, the list provides a place for you (or your companion) to write down answers. This will help you better remember what transpired.
  4. Have a good history – Doctors depend heavily on the history of a problem to make the diagnosis. This has to come from you. Keeping a symptom diary is a great way to quantify problems. For example, if you are being seen for headaches, keep a diary for a few weeks. Enter the dates and times you have headaches, how long each headache lasts, what the headaches are like, what you are doing when the headache occurs, what helps lessen the pain and what doesn’t, etc. You get the idea. This information will help your doctor better understand what you are experiencing.
  5. Ask about tests – It’s easy to order tests and doctors tend to do it a lot. Many patients expect to have them. Before having any tests performed, you should ask, “How will the test results affect my treatment?” You’d be surprised how often the answer is it won’t. If the results won’t change anything, then a good question is why do the test?
  6. Get your test results – It’s important for you to receive a copy of every test result. Never accept the “no news is good news” response. No news may mean all is fine, but it can also mean many other things. Perhaps the doctor never received the results and didn’t know it. Perhaps the results came back and were filed without the doctor reviewing the results. Perhaps the doctor misread the results. Or perhaps the doctor saw an abnormal result, but the office staff forgot to call you. You have a legal right to demand the lab send you results, and you have a right to all results in your medical file.
  7. Ask for a copy of the doctor’s notes – You have a right to the contents of your medical record. The doctor may “own the paper”, but the information is yours. You want to make sure the doctor got it right and, perhaps more important, recording what happened correctly. Depending on your state, the doctor may be able to impose a reasonable charge, but it’s well worth it.You should understand what is recorded. If you don’t understand something, either give the doctor a call or ask at your next visit.Once something is recorded, it’s next to impossible to change or correct it. Doctors are told to never go back and change what’s in a patient’s record. It looks back if there’s ever a legal issue. However, doctors can and do include an addendum if something in the record is entered incorrectly. If you find a mistake or disagree with a statement, you should send your complaint in writing to your doctor. Ask that your statement become part of the official record.

I know some physicians will not agree with some of the above – or even all of it. When I was in practice, I followed many of these steps and encouraged my patients to bring lists, get copies of results, and become active participants in their healthcare. I encourage you to do the same.

Rich Sagall, MD, a retired family physician, is the president and founder of NeedyMeds, a national non-profit that has information on programs that help people in medical need. He is aslso the

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