August 13th, 2010
10:20 AM ET

Empowered Patient viewer questions answered

It’s Empower Me Friday, when we answer your questions about how to get the most out of your health care. Here are two questions we’ve received in our Empowered Patient inbox:

I am a 41-year-old male that has no insurance and a family history of health issues. How do I go about getting a check-up?
San Diego, California

Carlos, one place to look is the Health Resource Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. On the agency's website you can find federally funded health centers in your area that help people who are underinsured and uninsured, and you only have to pay what you can afford. They provide various services including checkups, treatment, immunizations, dental care and even help with prescription drugs. Just type in your ZIP code, and you’ll find a list of locations near where you live.

Here’s another question we received.

How do I know which hospitals have lower infection rates? How does one investigate a hospital's procedures so one is less likely to get MRSA and post-op infections?
Cincinnati, Ohio

Hospital acquired infections (HAI) are a serious problem, killing more than 99,000 people each year, according to the CDC. So, Ann, you have good reason to be concerned. Here are some resources. On the Safe Patient Project website – that’s a site formed by the Consumers Union to help reduce medical harm in our health care system –  you can view a state-by-state list of resources on hospital infections in your area.  Here’s where you can find the information on Ohio.  Consumer Reports also has this information on hospitals in 10 states that are publicly reporting the numbers of central-line-related bloodstream infections in their intensive-care units and the Leapfrog Group allows you to compare hospitals on various aspects including infection reduction and medical error prevention. The Department of Health and Human Services has a series of fact sheets about four categories of HAIs in acute care hospital settings. Finally, in our column Don't Let a Hospital Kill You, you can find a list of  tips to help reduce your risk of acquiring a hospital infection during surgery.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. David

    I have insurance, through my work plan, but I have to pay 25 dollars for a co-pay to see a general pcp, and 35 for specialists. I do not make a large amount of money and would like my healthcare dollars to stretch more. How would I go about finding Free or reduced priced clinics out there, that won't bill my insurance, and expect a co-pay that large?

    August 13, 2010 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Bad Patient

    Personally, I would like to see something more sophisticated than the resources listed here. Maybe something more like University HealthSystem Consortium. Empowered patients that are actually dealing with health problems probably have a pretty good idea what they are looking for, but it's hard for them to find people that have their area of expertise. Better to keep it in education to keep it away from corruption though. It would be nice if it was available through gov websites, but...our emergency sirens are going off so I can't finish this now.

    August 13, 2010 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Krissy Rynn

    Put a period where a question mark is"...That's what I always tell my patients. I'm glad I listened to myself. I'm a Physician Assistant practicing in FL. An incidental finding on a CT scan lead me to have to take my own advise – and I'm glad I listened to her (lol!). A CAT scan of the chest revealed nodules in my thyroid which lead to my PCP ordering further evaluation and then onto a biopsy with a local Otolaryngologist. After the nuclear scan came back "mildly cold" (cold indicates a possibly cancerous nodule) the biopsies that were performed in the ENT's office came back inconclusive, it was suggested that I could repeat the biopsies in 3 to 6 months or, possibly, I could have the nodules surgically removed and evaluated. I said to the surgeon I was a busy person, I had things to do and a life to live – and – I needed to put a period where a question mark was, so I could move on with my life. It turned out that the first biopsy locally was negative, but the final biopsy from Mayo Clinic came pack fas cancer. Subsequently, I had to have a second surgery to remove the remainder of the right thyroid, and today, I am getting through radiation therapy. It appears it was so early in the process of the cancer that I only require one week of radiation vs. a year as initially thought. Put a period where a question...that's my policy and it save me, my family, and even the insurance company alot of anquish. Be proactive. Don't let things go . Take responsibilityfor your own health AND "Put a period where a question mark is"... Krissy Rynn, M.S., P.A.-C.

    August 14, 2010 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Dennis Myers

    I valiantly supported health care reform. But, after all was said and done, it doesn't seem to help the working class. There are two issues yet to be addressed.
    1) Billing errors/fraud–I have fought for over a year to get Jackson Memorial to correct the dates of my hospitalization. I notified my insurance (UHC) who told me it was not their issue. I kept fighting and finally got a letter from the hospital. The are writing off my percentage, but have never reimbursed UNH for the two days overbilled.
    2) Cpsts– My company pays nearly $1200 per month premium for my health insurance. I just had open heart surgery and now I am getting bills from everywhere indicating insurance paid one amount and it is up to me to pay the rest. It is obvious that getting sick can ruin a persons life.

    It's time for Ms. Cohen to work on another book and get facts about these issues.

    August 15, 2010 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Gene Weisberg

    “Healing the mind” by Gene Weisberg
    Past and present psychiatric treatment has focused largely on symptoms and that speculated the cause. What's really needed is more time spent on the solution.
    After 47 years of ups and downs, hospitalizations, experimental medication, shock treatments, solitary confinement, restraints, police brutality, lost family, friends, businesses, jobs and the desire to end it all. I now have a total understanding of my illness and how to heal it. What's more important is that others find the solution to their illness, living a happy, healthy,
    productive life.
    I believe healing most sick minds is not any different than healing a sick immune system (pertaining to the physical). The mind controls the health of Man (woman) kind.
    If we can think of the mind being like a computer which stores and processes information (experiences), doesn't it stand to reason if it is programmed with enough negativity for a long enough period of time, creating enough stress, it will shut down the natural flow of positive chemicals to the brain creating anything from physical problems to mental problems. Some of the negative feelings are depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and fear. Compound this with the different addictions used to cover over bad feelings and what do you have? It has all kinds of labels, Go to thegenie123@yahoo.com FACE BOOK

    August 15, 2010 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dan

    I have worked in the medical field for over 23 yrs.. One day I phoned my medical ins. company about a charge that I recieved from my hospital for a procedure that I did not recieve . The ins. rep. said yes we have already paid that charge don't worry about it.. I said WHAT??? She said after we pay for somthing we don't go back to protest that charge. It's OK it won't cost you anything. I said thats what you think!!!

    August 16, 2010 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Davis

    Isn't it funny that we are a world power and yet numerous third world countries have better health care than we do? I am seriously considering moving to Canada. They don't go into useless wars and they take care of their citizens. No one goes bankrupt over medical bills. That is the biggest joke of the century in this country. Absolutely dispicable.

    August 16, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Nancy Strawsburg

    Dear MS. Cohen,
    In a perfect world all things would be possible including health care,unfortunately this is not perfect world. I just finished watching the CNN program "THE EMPOWERED PATIENT" i found it very interesting . All information given was very helpful to those who have medical insurance that will allow them to see the doctors of their choosing,seek that second opinion,have the tests thatwill determine the diagnosis. I would like to suggest that you follow up with " What to do if the insurance doesnt allow you to be healthy or to get that surgery or test that is crucial for your well being." Also, where to go to seek help for health care if you do not have or can not afford the insurance needed. Please dont tell me go to your local Social Service offices Medicaid is not available to millions of hard working individuals who have insurance through their employers but are only offered the bear minimums of benefits.
    I am a 63 yr old widow that is currently having medical problems. My doctors have been unable to diagnose. I have insurance, well lets say I pay for insurance through my employer . However it does not pay for second opinions or if i go out of network it wont be covered,so i went to apply for medicaid to help me and was told " we are sorry you have a job and can afford to pay. What they failed tounderstand was that I was unemployed employed at this time due to health issues. I also paid for short term diability through the company I work for and am unable to collect because a group of nurses for the company has determined my condition was not worthy of be paid, even though a diagnosis has not been determined. So if you have the resourses to cover all cost for your illness it is my consenses that your plan will work great , for those that dont , thats another story just go undiagnosed and die.

    thanks for listening or did you???
    istening or did you?

    October 2, 2010 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Shirley A Engman

    It is my understanding that I am entitled to a copy of my medical records at no charge. Is this not true? I just received a bill for $30.75 that must be paid in order to receive a copy of my records. This is not covered in The Empowered Patient.

    October 15, 2010 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.