Is your Doctor ripping you off?!

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We find these headlines disappointing when it comes to paying to see your doctor or any adviser.

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GP rebate: What I do for the $37.05 that no one wants to pay

People in Saba jackets complain to me about “crap bulk-billing doctors”. It’s like whingeing that McDonald’s gave you reflux.

If you haven’t already, read this article that gives an account of a day in the life of your GP.

In it, the GP states:

The builder chatted while I checked his blood pressure, waist circumference, cholesterol, fasting glucose and urine protein. We discussed bowel and prostate cancer screening in detail and I gave him written information as we were out of time. As I signed his script for blood pressure medication he winked.

“That was easy money for you, wasn’t it?”

A curious question. Was the patient accusing the doctor of rorting the system? Was it simply envy?  Was he feeling any financial stress himself? If so, was it affecting his health? (Yes, one’s wealth can affect their health.)

Financial stress continues to rank as the top source of stress.

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In our view, it is time to go back to basics. We need to go back to nudge economics – The psychology of saving money at your fingertips.  

‘Indeed, studies show that people with more debt tend to report having higher levels of stress and depression. Other studies suggest financial insecurity (such as loss of a job), or even just worrying about becoming financially insecure, can increase the amount of physical pain people report feeling, and increases the amount of over-the-counter painkillers people report taking. Other research shows people with more financial stress are more likely to have metabolic syndrome, a series of poor health markers that put you at risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and early death.’

Source:CNBC – How to stop stressing over money so it doesn’t hurt your health  and The stress of money

Here is a simple solution you can adopt to start your road to recovery.

Paying for advice is a grudge purchase.

Paying for advice is a grudge purchase. Unless we receive something tangible from it, we resent paying for it. Others, even (and particularly) our friends may be suspicious of it and may ridicule us for paying for it, especially if they don’t agree with it.

It is a sad truth, one universally acknowledged, that we value our money and other goods and possessions over our own health and wellbeing. It seems counterproductive for us to spend more on tangible goods and products, than on things that can fundamentally save and enhance our lives and those of the people we care for, things such as health care and financial advice.  

Despite what the builder believed in the example above, there is no such thing as ‘easy money’ when it comes to professional advice, be it healthcare or financial advice. Sadly, advice is often devalued because it was ‘just a chat’; something that took ‘a mere few minutes’ to assess and communicate. We tend to quickly devalue it, even if it comes from a highly trained, experience professional with many years’ training and experience.

We do not value what we do not pay for.

It is a fact of life, that we tend not to value something that we don’t pay for from our own hard-earned money.

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Nor do we spend it carefully when we do spend it. Interestingly, people spend more on alcohol, cigarettes and soft drinks, all of which could kill them, than a medical consultation fee of $37.05 that could save their life.

There is little reward or recognition for the effort or risk the doctor takes at each consultation. Many people take this important role for granted. Even more so when we do not pay for it. In our view, every patient should at least pay $1 when they see their GP just to remind them of this salient point. Nothing in life is for free. We do not sufficiently value things we do not consciously pay for with our own hard-earned money.

Furthermore, we are more likely to waste this resource if no price signal is given. Like motor vehicle speeding tickets, we need a healthcare price signal to nudge us to do the right thing.

Finding the cheapest neurosurgeon to operate your brain surgery should not be the first question you should be asking!

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Only a fool would begrudge a fair reward for the risks and responsibility a doctor takes when it comes to saving your life. After, all what is your life worth? Consider who relies on it… your employer, family and loved ones.

Capable professionals invest in their minds. It is an expensive ongoing responsibility. Over a lifetime it is equivalent to the family home and, like renovations, it never stops until they stop. We live in a fast-paced medical and health research environment. A patient’s appetite for the latest and best in healthcare is insatiable (for many people, it now has to be on our smart watches in real time!)

More importantly, many expect to pay very little or nothing for it. In the long run this is simply not sustainable.

The reality is Governments do not and cannot totally foot the healthcare bill. To get re-elected they would like to make you think they do. The healthcare dollar is a finite resource and it needs to be allocated carefully.

Doctors do get sued for the small stuff… and this hurts all of us!

The glamorous life of doctor or any professional adviser has a much darker flipside. At the pointy end of a rushed consult is the legal responsibility should there be a misdiagnosis or your medical notes not be accurately recorded. Professional reputations can be destroyed very quickly in our law courts and in the media.

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The community loss is far greater if the competent doctor can no longer, or no longer wishes to, practice. We are not apologists for the healthcare profession.. but this is the sad reality in an unforgiving opaque and complex healthcare system.

We are simply highlighting they are part of an important social infrastructure that we need to understand and protect for our own sakes.

Some live an over-capitalised FOMO or YOLO lifestyle.

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Keeping up with the Joneses is what we now call FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) or You Only Live Once (YOLO) lifestyles. This at times can lead to irrational and fatal financial decisions that may take decades to recover from, such as private school fees, that car, mental luxury holiday break or house you could not really afford.

Holding the material bragging rights amongst their family and friends as to what they possess seems appealing, but is detrimental to your health if you really can’t afford it, even if you bank says you can or you believe it is good for your mental health.  This may seem obvious. However, many of us do it, risking our financial security for all the wrong reasons.

Ultimately this may do more harm than good. It can lead to unsustainable debt levels. It can produce serious financial strains and mental health problems in individuals and families. This is more of a problem in this fast-changing economy where job security is not like it used to be.

Don’t be greedy with investments

On the flipside, do not be greedy. Do not be seduced with fast money-making ideas. Investments promising 10% returns p.a. should be treated with scepticism especially if your financial adviser(s) e.g. an accountant or banker is receiving a trailing commission from their advice.  

Do not get burnt with BBQ advice and DIY.

Seeking independent, experienced professional advice is a must, no matter how smart you think your family and friends are.

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At the Sunday BBQ, your friends may make you feel you are getting inferior advice and you are being ripped off. The reality is they do not have the context of your circumstances or all the information in front of them, like your adviser has. Nor do they take responsibility for this advice or can they be sued for it.  Remember, it is too late to fix things once you have signed a contract based on your friends’ advice.

Have a healthy attitude towards money

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Money is a limited resource; it is a means to an end. It can be like herion to some and they can never get enough of it. This becomes a breeding ground for poor decisions. Knowing when your belly is full and you are no longer hungry is the key.

Being resourceful is more important than having resources. Your financial security will dominate your life whether you like it or not. It is to be respected and understood. Despite how others might make you feel it is not a measure of your importance or value in life.

Your own ego and ignorance and lack of self-awareness can produce a harmful, time-poor lifestyle. A lifestyle that does not allow you to correctly prioritise the most important decisions in your life. This can be a leading cause of many preventable health problems.

If you want some practical tips on finding and selecting the right trusted life advisers for you, firstly you should stick to a good GP, Accountant/Financial Adviser and Lawyer. Fewer mistakes and misunderstandings will occur, saving you time and money in the long run.

  1. “I do not have time” or the money is no longer an excuse for obtaining good advice

The reality is we set priorities and we value some things more than others. We would rather spend $60 on a bottle of wine or cigarettes than a comparable amount to see our local GP who could save our lives.

If we said we had a $1m to give away we would not be short of takers. It is human nature people want financial security. The quicker the better. But how we get there does matter.

Be clear about what is important to you and why. Then work out how you are going to make this a priority because it will have a long-lasting benefit even though it may not feel urgent.

This is a useful tool practitioners and you could use on yourself. Which quadrant below would you like to work in; 1, 2, 3 or 4?

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  1. Be patient

You will be living for a long time so you have to pace it out… it’s more like a marathon than a sprint. You need to set priorities and goal posts and be patient. Start living within your means and not within yours or other people’s expectations. You are guaranteed never to be happy if you do.

  1. The cheapest does not mean the best. What to watch out for?!

Cheap not better

Next surround yourself with the best team that will look after your health and wealth.

There are three things you should spend more time carefully selecting. One is a good GP/medical practice that proactively looks after your wellbeing. The second is a good accountant/financial adviser who looks after your financial wellbeing. Thirdly, a lawyer who is across the details (your financial advisers can usually refer you to a good lawyer, as your GP refers you to a specialist when needed).

These three are the key to your wellbeing. Keep looking until you find ones you are comfortable with and trust. You need to trust them and it should not just be about the price they charge.

Don’t look for the cheapest neurosurgeon to perform your brain surgery!

Finding the cheapest advice when it comes to your health and or wealth is like finding the cheapest neurosurgeon when you are looking for someone to operate on your brain. Nor do you want the cheapest pilot there is to fly the plane you travel on.

Then again, you shouldn’t have to mortgage your children’s inheritance to obtain sound advice. Asking the right questions is more important than just looking for the right answers.

Shopping for the cheapest deal in expert advice will guarantee you buyer’s remorse. First ask what you need and not what you want.

The cheapest operators won’t give you what you really need. Why?

1. You are just another number

Your advisers will need to see many clients to keep their doors open. By going to the cheapest provider you risk becoming just another number. In fact, if you pay next to nothing, there is no incentive for them to make sure they got it right the first time. And you are less likely to complain if you aren’t happy. As the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

2. They have no time for you

They have no time to look out for what you need because there is no compensation for them. Their practice is about volume rather than providing value for money.  

3. They cannot be proactive and do what is in your best interest

They have no time to research and invest in your industry or areas of interest. This leave you perennially on the back foot. Think of it this way: you thought you bought a GPS on your car; however, it was really a rear-vision mirror. This makes life impossible to navigate, increasing your stress, wasting your time and money.

4. How to find the right trusted adviser

When it comes to trusted advisers, get the right team behind you. This is an important and valuable long- term decision. Do not be fooled by glossy brochures or extravagant sales pitches. The biggest is not always the best, in fact boutique is better because they specialise in your interests and are not distracted with things that do not affect you. Substance over form is what counts.

Check references

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Good advisers should be able to demonstrate a track record, with references that show their experience and expertise.

If they are being regularly quoted in the media this is a good sign as they expose themselves to public scrutiny. Journalists tend to use them as a trusted source.

For over 27 years we (David Dahm CEO and Founder of Health and Life) have been quoted over 450 times in the national media; and this does not happen by accident.

Ask the right questions, don’t first look for the right answers

You should aim for getting more than what you actually need and want; if you don’t get this, then keep asking more questions in writing before proceeding. The benefits of the strategy should always outweigh the risks and this must be clear to you at all times.

Avoid the desire for instant gratification… what you want is sustainable outcomes.

The best advisers should be like the GPS on your car that can proactively shows you the way forward.

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In the end, true value is not what you pay for a service. It is how much better and safer you feel from the service. Your trusted adviser needs to be sophisticated and educated in what you do. If they are not, they are not in a position to serve your best interests. They should demonstrate a knowledge of your industry or needs and how they can help you get to the next level of your practice or personal journey efficiently and effectively.

Advisers need to be clear about what they offer. They are responsible for educating their customers, clients or patients upfront, not only in what they can offer but how they deliver on expectations. The role of a competent adviser is to be able to be holisticly and quickly zoom in and out of your key concerns and help you set priorities and ensure their execution.  

We have provided some new and innovative examples which many of our clients have rapidly adopted to help them simplify their world. How are you simplifying yours, and your clients?

To see how we can instantly and cost effectively help you see My Prosperity – my wealth report  and the The Barefoot Investor.

For health practitioners looking for a complete solution see:

Use the ‘Best of Breed’ processes and technology is the key to survival

Why traditional or start-up healthcare accountants are finding it difficult to help you.

For more information contact us at Health and Life pa@healthandlife.com.au or for a no obligation free consult.

(c)Health and Life Pty Ltd

 

4 comments on “Is your Doctor ripping you off?!”

  1. David this is such an excellent article! I’m saving it and going to read it when I ever feel “bad” for charging or being valued for my time. I’ve struggle with this area consistently but you are absolutely right, I would never search for the cheapest neurosurgeon!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jonathan thanks for the feedback. You are all professionals and you all need to stop apologising when charging a fee. This should be given to all patients and your colleagues who complain.

      Like

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