If you are a Madisonian of a certain age, you may have received a brochure in the mail from a company called Life Line Screening. They are bringing their medicine show to town (for one day only!) at St. Peter's Catholic Church (I assume the church merely rented them a meeting hall and is not actually promoting this snake oil).
For about a hundred and fifty bucks, they will do several unnecessary ultrasound tests to check for a variety of ills. After they have had time to review the images, they will send you a letter telling you whether you should follow up with your doctor.
There are good reasons why Medicare and most health insurance policies do not cover such screening tests in individuals with no symptoms needing diagnosis. Not only is it an unnecessary expenditure, but such screenings do not improve the odds of living a long and healthy life. Yes, you may detect clogged arteries, but if you had no symptoms, there is a good chance that the treatment will be worse than the disease.
This is a good example of what is wrong with our for-profit health care system. Aggressive marketing techniques convince people (and their doctors) that they need procedures that will do little good and may do harm. How many of the fools who pay $150 out-of-pocket for the screening will learn that they have clogged arteries? The letter will convince them that their money was well-spent, and they will go to their doctor (on their insurance carrier's dime) for further tests. A few of them may have unnecessary surgery; a larger number of them will start taking a cholesterol-lowering drug (which works by damaging the liver to suppress its production of cholesterol). Doctors are way too quick to prescribe those drugs, since their education about their safety and efficacy has been provided entirely by the drug companies.
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