Here's some simple advice that will save you time and money: "If you're not sick, don't go to the doctor," writes Brian Palmer at Slate. Around 45 million healthy people spend 17 million hours a year completing their annual checkups, costing the health care system $8 billion a year and sapping around $2 billion worth of productivity out of the economy. And these visits aren't even all that useful in terms of dispensing preventative care, 80% of which doctors wind up administering when people come in with actual illnesses.
Beyond the waste, "many primary-care doctors order totally unnecessary procedures during annual exams," Palmer points out. "Perhaps they just want to make patients feel like they’re doing something." But that's dangerous, because if you get enough screenings, it's pretty likely you'll get a false positive, which can lead to invasive or even dangerous follow-up procedures. Yes, checkups build rapport with your doctor. But while you're "chatting about your hobbies and your grandparents, there are other patients waiting weeks or months for an appointment. And some of them are actually sick." His full column is worth a read. (Read more medical costs stories.)