Get savvy about healthcare to protect your family

(StatePoint) Health care costs are on the rise. Between a maturing baby boom population and an explosion of available tests, treatments and devices, Americans spend about twice as much per capita for healthcare compared to other western countries.

Some experts warn that despite legislation like the Affordable Care Act that promises to expand quality coverage to everyone, there are still a lot of unknowns about the future of healthcare in this country.

“Getting savvy about your health and the future of healthcare politics can help protect you and your family, no matter what trends we see in the years to come,” says Virgil Simons, founder and president of The Prostate Net, a non-profit patient education and advocacy organization.

Here are some important steps to consider:

• Know your health risks. Some populations are more susceptible to certain diseases than others, and if you have a family history of a particular disease, you may be genetically predisposed for a certain condition. Take advantage of free screenings where possible and make realistic and appropriate decisions about what diagnostic exams are important for you to receive. Testing for the sake of testing can add enormous costs to your health care bills and may not be worth the price tag.

• Disparity in quality of care is often due to lack of knowledge. Empower yourself to get better care with free resources. For example, The Prostate Net’s bi-monthly “In the Know” newsletters serve as a thorough review of information and developments in healthcare of critical importance to men. You can access the free newsletters online or order a print edition at

• A recent study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that uninsured and underinsured U.S. women are more likely to skip care because of costs than women in 10 other industrialized nations. Be an advocate for affordable care by becoming an active voter and engaging your elected officials.

• Seek alternate sources of information. Health symposiums and conventions, for example, bring together patients and doctors for a healthy exchange of information not normally available. The Prostate Cancer Educational Symposium is a series of events that are free to attend and will address risk awareness, treatment options, and disease management. To register, visit

• Take steps to reduce your chance of being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. You can start by eliminating risky habits like smoking, reducing your intake of alcohol and highly processed foods, and eating a diet rich in vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. Obesity increases your risk for diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Incorporate exercise into your day to help maintain a healthy weight.

No matter what the future holds politically for healthcare reform, Americans can become their own health advocates by getting informed.