Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life Line Screening Scam in Town

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.

Caveat emptor.


A Ahlborn said...

Hi Jill,

I wanted to correct a few of your opinions about what preventative health is.

1. We are looking to find a problems at a the mild level to be treated with change in lifestyle of medications. At worst case we want to find a sever problem to send you to your doctor before you are about to have a stroke, thats what "prevention" is.

2. Health care does not cover any type of preventative health. You cannot get any of these tests at a doctor unless you have already had a heart attack or stoke, and then what good are the tests.

4. Your doctor would charge 5,000 for just one test to tell you that you had a mild problem, and that would be a waste of money.

Just a few notes about what those who work in health care do to prevent illness from their fellow citizen.

Anonymous said...

My father and mom were drawn in with the misleading brochure of lifeline.. My dad was told he had a 80% clogged artery in his neck. Mom was scared to death.. He was told it was life threatening and had surgery... He almost died from the surgery and has not been the same since.. He was also put on Lipitor and has basically lost the use of his legs from muscle damage.. Too bad we found out too late how dangerous this operation was... I am convinced if he had stayed away from this "For Profit" medical system we have.... I would have my Dad back.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jill your blog is just what I was looking for in a confirmation that I should not go.

Anonymous said...

My husband went to several of these Life Line Screenings. The screenings said he was perfectly fine....the last one was about six months before he was found to have two completely blocked arteries and a third that was 85% blocked. He had triple bypass surgery in late-June. I kept telling him they were questionable, but he felt he was doing something good. Google "Life Line Screenings" + "scam."

Unknown said...

Life Line Screening saved my husbands life!!! He and I went to a routine screening. Mine came out perfect, his did not. They detected an abdominal aneurysm and told him on the spot. They advised him to see a doctor immediately. The same day, we researched doctors best in the field. the best was a doctor at UCLA Ronald Regan Hospital in Los Angeles. He scheduled the appointment. When he saw the doctor, the doctor re-arranged his schedule to operate on Monday (he went to see the doctor on Friday). The doctor told us that he would have died at any time had he not been checked....I thank Life Line Screening and his guardian angel...I urge everyone to get these tests it worth your life to be cheap!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank God I went to Life Screening
90% clogged on left side
My Dr. Put me on 80 ml Lipitor 500 Niocin and
4 months later going in right direction
cholestrol came down to 105 from 285
why didnt my regular Dr, do this ???