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On the Importance of Preventive Care

Preventive care might have slipped off of your to-do list in the past. But perhaps current events have changed that… here’s what you need to consider now.

Be honest: before COVID-19, you’d postponed scheduling a routine checkup or kept “forgetting” to get a flu shot. Same here. But these days, just watching the news is likely to make you wonder why you ever skipped out. 

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already started thinking ahead. Maybe you’re even setting aside some money in your health savings account (HSA) for future eligible medical expenses. Now, the next smart move is to actively use those preventive care services that exist to keep you safe.

Physical exams, screenings, laboratory tests, counseling sessions, and immunizations are all measures meant to detect illnesses and diseases in their early, more treatable stages. They also significantly reduce the risk of illness, disability, and of course, medical care costs.

Good Health Requires Not Just Treating, But Preventing Disease

Good health consists of two major components: treatment for current illness, and appropriate preventive care to reduce health decline in the future. 

Mary James, MD, an internal medicine physician at Stanford University Medical Center says (in a talk that you can watch in full here) that we actively seek care for treating an illness, but we aren’t proactive about our health, so we forget about prevention.

Staying on top of our health during this time is as important as ever because the risk of developing health conditions doesn’t take a “time out” while we’re at home.

Invest in Preventive Care for a Healthy Future 

So how do we become more proactive about prevention?

You can visit a primary care provider (PCP) regularly. You’ll be more likely to get the preventive care you need at every stage of your life. Of course, how often you visit your PCP is individual and can be determined by age, gender (many women visit their PCP at least once per year, as well as their gynecologist, for instance).

Luckily, not every visit requires an in-person consultation. And now, especially per the effects of coronavirus, physicians are adapting to meeting with patients in virtual visits through telephone and video. In fact, subscription-based telehealth services are now (at least through 2021) HSA-eligible, which is a huge win. And if your primary care provider has started offering telehealth visits as part of their regular options, those are always HSA-eligible.

When you see your health provider, you will share your family history, establish a health baseline, and talk about your health goals… all good steps to take and for your doctor to know in case you get sick. 

Having a primary care provider will encourage you to take the right preventive health care steps. And that could mean paying attention to healthy habits like exercise, diet, stress management, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking. If you are diagnosed with a health problem, you can work together to determine the most effective treatment plan for you.

How HSAs Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs

Some preventive-care measures are actually set at a lower rate. In some instances, they’re even waived as something you pay with your health plan. For example, even with a high-deductible health plan, you may get a free (or low-priced) annual physical examination. These kinds of visits are encouraged. Why? You guessed it! They’re preventive. Check with your insurer to find out your coverage for preventive services and what network rules may apply.

If you do require treatment beyond preventive care, using your HSA comes through in the clutch. Those pre-tax dollars can pay for your qualified medical expenses, really helping to minimize your out-of-pocket costs. In lots of cases, you’ll also have funds that your employer contributed to your HSA—also tax-free!

People who use preventive care may require fewer prescription medications, hospitalizations, and ultimately, procedures, so the money saved in their HSA will continue to grow. These funds will be available when you need them, either now or later. And remember: HSA contributions are tax-free. 

So heed the wake-up call! Commit to preventive care now for a better future.