Insider Insights

The Affluent Dilemma: The Burden of Unwarranted Medical Care

Wealth, Health, and Overcare: VIP Syndrome's Impact on Affluent Families

Unnecessary medical care is a pervasive issue impacting the broader American population, characterized by an abundance of tests, scans, and diagnostic procedures, resulting in billions of dollars in annual costs. Similarly, VIP Syndrome, affecting the affluent, poses an equally detrimental problem. Both scenarios involve the receipt of unnecessary care, adding complexity to the overall medical landscape.

BHA exists to guide you through the healthcare journey to mitigate risk and bring you clarity—from securing second opinions to assessing and reviewing your medical team and make recommendations to support care goals.

Neglecting your health can lead to consequences down the road. But doctors who overtreat can also inflict significant harm, both in terms of your physical well-being and your finances.  According to a New Yorker article, in this country alone, over 100 million CT and MRI scans are done each year. And a mind-boggling ten billion lab tests are performed to see what’s up. Sometimes, it’s life-changing, other times, it’s an unnecessary fishing expedition.  

Besides costs, over testing can lead to overdiagnosis. Overdiagnosis, according to The New Yorker article, refers to accurately diagnosing a disease that will never pose a threat during one's lifetime. The traditional assumption goes like this: by screening a healthy population for conditions like cancer or heart disease and detecting them early, we can effectively treat them before they become advanced—thus saving lives. But that’s not the case. For example, the widespread use of mammography, ultrasound, and blood tests for cancer screening has led to a substantial increase in the detection of breast, thyroid, and prostate cancer over the past 25 years. As a result, we are now treating hundreds of thousands more individuals each year for these diseases than ever before. Yet, there has been only a marginal, if any, decrease in mortality rates.

The affluent are not immune from this overtreatment. It just takes on different forms. In healthcare, it’s referred to as VIP Syndrome. Although a person of privilege might think they are getting the best care available, oftentimes, they simply aren’t.

VIPs might receive subpar care when doctors and hospitals deviate from standard protocols. In some cases, physicians may avoid asking uncomfortable yet essential questions or grant patients excessive flexibility in their care due to feelings of respect, fear, or admiration. There are instances where doctors may not assertively advocate for the patient's best interests as required to achieve optimal outcomes. Because the important—and often invasive—questions go unasked, common events like alcohol or substance abuse withdrawal can occur, further complicating the medical picture and lead to longer hospital stays.

A Journal of Graduate Medical Education article asserts that the anticipation of preferential treatment and the focus on additional tests and interventions frequently lead to iatrogenic (illness caused by medical examination or treatment) repercussions, necessitating additional, and often unnecessary, medical interventions that perpetuate this precarious cycle.

Having an advisor can serve as a valuable advocate for your health and well-being. Because there are times when you need the care of a doctor and the plethora of tests available to diagnose your condition—and then there are times, for example, when a regime of physical therapy is needed before an unnecessary surgery is performed. After all, surgeons tend to recommend surgery. Better Health Advisors is here to support clients at the point of care with health advisory, advocacy, and key decision support.

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