There is numerous evidence that show a second opinion can save lives, prevent mistakes, and cut costs. In spite of all the evidence many senior's choose not to get a second opinion because they are either afraid of offending their doctor, don't want the hassle, or are in fear that their insurance won't cover the cost. Getting a second opinion from a different doctor may offer you a fresh perspective, new information, and additional options for treating your condition so you can make a better informed decision. Even better, if the second doctor agrees with the first, you now have reassurance.
Will the cost for a second opinion be covered?
If you are working with private insurance every policy varies, check with your insurance provider to review your coverage options. For most situations Medicare pays for second opinions under Part B and will even pay for a third opinion if the first two differ. Most Medicare Advantage plans also cover second opinions, but some plans will require a referral first from your primary physician. Medicare even mandates that some diagnoses be confirmed with a second opinion.
When to consider a second opinion:
You have been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease such as cancer or heart disease.
Your doctor recommends surgery. Always question elective procedures, especially if a less invasive alternative is available.
You are not improving and feeling better.
Your primary physician can't diagnose the problem.
You are having difficulty communicating with your current doctor.
You have various medical issues.
Issues to give thoughtful attention to:
Ask your doctor for a referral or, if that makes you feel uncomfortable, seek one on your own. Getting a recommendation from someone you respect is a good place to start. It's best to go with a doctor that has extensive experience in treating your condition and one that is affiliated with a different practice or hospital than your original doctor. Hospitals and practices can be set in their ways when it comes to treatments and are likely to offer similar advice.
Physicians from research and teaching hospitals are a smart choice, especially for rare or complicated conditions, because of their ongoing research and expertise in specific areas of medicine. To locate and research potential doctors, the American Medical Association, www.ama-assn.org and the American Osteopathic Association, www.osteopathic.org offer free doctor-finding services that list virtually every licensed physician in the U.S.
Another good resource is Health Grades, www.healthgrades.com which provides detailed reports on doctors for a small fee. Also check out www.vitals.com a free service that lets you search for top-rated doctors based on their training, expertise, consumer ratings and recommendations from other doctors.
One last bit of advice:
Before you get a second opinion, you will need to have your doctor's office send your medical records ahead to the second doctor (you may need to pick them up and deliver them yourself), and be sure they know about your original diagnosis and the course of treatment recommended by your first doctor. If the second doctor disagrees from the first, you may want to seek that third opinion, or go back to your original doctor for further consultation.
In summary, you should never hesitate to seek a second medical opinion if you are uncomfortable with the recommendations your doctor makes, especially when you are being asked to undergo invasive testing or therapy and especially if you feel that you and your doctor haven't enjoyed a level of communication that satisfies your concerns. After all...your life can depend on it!
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