Health News Review

If you have a mailbox, there’s a good chance that you’ve received a letter from Peggy Fleming urging you to get some health screening scans to help prevent strokes.

I did – and I blogged about it six months ago.

Now Jeff Baillon of KMSP-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul shows once again how TV news can do a good job of educating consumers on tough health care issues like the overselling of such screening tests.

(Note:  the TV station no longer provides the video of the story on its website.  That is unfortunate.)

This is an 8 1/2 minute report. Granted, this station has a one-hour newscast. But what a tribute to this news team to find the time and to make the investment to dig into health care claims as they have done.

(Disclosure: Baillon was a student in my health journalism seminar last Fall.)

Comments

Pat Courneya posted on September 24, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I read your blog from 6 months ago and I like it. I particularly like your response to the comment that came from Lifeline. They are surely puzzled by the “Minnesota Nice” reputation we are supposed to have.
Full disclosure, I am the Dr. Courneya in Jeff’s story.

Linda posted on September 29, 2009 at 10:34 am

My husband, Greg, who was 60 years old at the time, went to Lifeline Screening and was told to see a Dr. within 24 hours. This was on or about 11-22-07. He was checked at our Dr. and the agreed with Lifeline. He had a nearly completely blocked carotid artery. He went in for a stress test and had to have a stent put in before they could operate. They were very concerned and watched him as he needed to wait 30 days because of the blood thinners he had to take after they put in the stent. They did the surgery, which was much more complicated than expected, but completely successful. Greg NEVER had any symptoms. His stent was put in on 12-21-07 and his artery done 1-25-08.
It was such a fluke that he even went to Lifeline. One day a flyer came, and I said “do you want to do this? he said “why not?” so I signed him up.
In September of 2008 he went for a routine colonoscopy and found out he had colon cancer. He had it removed 10-1-08. If he had not been taken care of previously with regard to the stent and blocked artery, and since he never had any symptoms, we are convinced that he would have had problems, possibly fatal, during the surgery, because of what procedures he was in need of. The simple fact that he never had symptoms, not even high cholesterol meds and he is checked every year, and he needed all of this done, shows how important and accurate their tests are.
We cannot thank Lifeline Screening enough. We believe they are the reason Greg is healthy and still with us today.
Linda
9-29/09

Gary Schwitzer posted on September 29, 2009 at 10:53 am

Linda,
I’m happy for you that this screening paid off.
For many people it does not, and that is why imbalanced promotion of screening to a broad population is troublesome.
Yes, when you cast a broad net, you will pick up a few cases like your husband who might benefit.
But the fact is that in population-wide screening you will pick up many more false positives who do not, indeed, have a problem. The anxiety, the further testing that will ensue (some of which may carry its own harms), and the possible treatment that may follow (also with its own harms) – all because of a problem that wasn’t really there – is the huge “other side of the story.”
That is why we praised the TV report that gave the other side of the story that many don’t get about such screening promotions.
Single anecdotes of happy outcomes fail to over-ride evidence-based recommendations that don’t support such mass screening.

Andrew Manganaro, MD, FACS, FACC, Chief Medical Officer, Life Line Screening posted on September 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Life Line Screening offers a package of screenings aimed at the early identification of disease. Our focus is on people in the right target age group with risk factors, and we conduct our screenings with accuracy. [ http://lifelinescreening.com/aboutus/qualityassurance/Pages/default.aspx ] The stroke prevention components involve the three leading causes of stroke – carotid artery stenosis, atrial fibrillation, and systolic hypertension (high blood pressure). Other screenings include peripheral arterial disease and bone mineral density testing as well as finger-stick blood tests for cholesterol and glucose (sugar).
The story focused almost exclusively on one screening — the carotid artery screening. There is a valid debate around carotid artery screening in the medical community. There are some doctors who think the carotid artery screening is a valid screening that helps identify those at risk earlier, and those who feel that the testing can lead to anxiety and further unnecessary tests that can cause more harm than good.
The basis of the Fox report is a statement by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). USPSTF is a government convened body that examines screenings and gives them a letter grade based on what they see as the evidence and their evaluation of the costs and benefits of screening.
In December of 2008, the Task Force released a statement saying they gave carotid artery screening a “D” grade, which is a low grade, and therefore do not recommend the screening based as what they saw as unacceptable costs versus the benefit to humanity. They arrived at this conclusion by doing a meta-analysis, which is a review of other published studies. As far as Life Line Screening can tell, there were no vascular specialists on the panel that did the review.
The panel’s statement was based on the costs of hospital-based screening coupled with a surgical procedure called carotid endarterectomy. This model is the costliest model and since it involves surgery, does carry with it some risk. They found this not to be a good model for a large scale screening process.
But this is not what Life Line Screening does.
Life Line Screening provides community-based screening with the aim of finding disease at an early enough stage that lifestyle changes and medical management can make a difference. Community-based screening is much less expensive than hospital-based because we don’t have the overhead expenses associated with maintaining a hospital. In addition, lifestyle coaching and medical management (such as aspirin therapy or statins) are cheaper and safer than surgery. The model is completely different than what the Task Force examined.
There are some additional things your readers might want to know. For example:
* Life Line Screening believes that screening people at-risk for cardiovascular disease risk factors makes sense. Finding disease at an earlier stage, when it is typically silent, is a better option than waiting for symptoms to appear and dealing with advanced disease.
* Most strokes occur out of the blue, with only a fraction having any warnings signs. For most individuals, the first sign of a stroke is the stroke. For people with osteoporosis, the first sign is often a bone fracture.
* The Society for Vascular Surgery recommends the types of vascular screenings LLSA does. http://www.vascularweb.org/members_only/pdf/SVS_Position_Statement_on_Screening.pdf
* The SHAPE Task Force, a task force of medical professionals, also recommends these types of screening. http://www.shapesociety.org/why_screening/
* The American Diabetes Association recommends one of the screenings – peripheral arterial disease – for every person with diabetes age 50 and over. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/well-being/peripheral-arterial-disease.jsp
* A study in the UK found community-based carotid artery screenings to be cost effective and beneficial to saving lives. http://www.cardiovascularultrasound.com/content/6/1/34
* The Mayo Clinic has a statement on its website that says, “Community screenings are an excellent way to raise awareness about common diseases and, in some situations, identify disease in its early stages. The benefit is realized when patients take the next step, seeing their physician for diagnosis and treatment.” This is completely in concert with Life Line Screening’s mission.
Mentioned briefly but not highlighted is the fact that Fox also received several emails from customers who say that Life Line Screening saved their lives or the lives of people in their families.
Life Line Screening stands behind its quality and is proud to serve and continue to serve the citizens of Minneapolis and Minnesota.

Gary Schwitzer posted on September 29, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Dr. Manganaro,
Thanks for your note.
You said your “focus is on people in the right target age group with risk factors.”
Then why did I get the Peggy Fleming letter that your company produced? Did someone determine that I was “in the right target age group with risk factors?”
What did you know about my age and about my risk factors? And how did you get that information?
Or was that letter sent to me and thousands of others because you were just trolling for customers?
It has to be one or the other. I’d like to know the answer.
You wrote that The Society for Vascular Surgery recommends the types of vascular screenings that your company does. You also criticized the US Preventive Services Task Force for not having any vascular specialists on the panel that made its recommendation that didn’t support screening. Are you saying that only vascular surgeons can make recommendations? Isn’t good evidence good evidence no matter which initials you have after your name?
You also note that the SHAPE Task Force recommends these types of screenings. Criticism of the SHAPE Task Force is longer than your blog posting.
You pointed out that the local TV station received several emails from customers who say that Life Line Screening saved their lives or the lives of people in their families. Are people supposed to be swayed by anecdotes? Or by data and evidence? The plural of anecdote is not data.
There are two sides to this story. Do people who bite on your promotions hear BOTH sides?

Tim Webster posted on November 9, 2009 at 5:22 pm

I just got their letter but didn’t open it–suspecting it was blanket advertising.
Well, I have greatly reduced such advertising at the senders cost with this cure: Mark the envelope “DELIVERY REFUSED… Please Return To Sender.” You can add, “sender unknown,” if you think an explaination is in order.
The Post Office charges return postage PLUS a return fee for EACH returned letter.– Just image the expense if everyone did that with junk mail.

Liz posted on March 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I wondered if there is any documentation from just cardiovascular professionals regarding their views on getting these Life Line screenings or some from like companies. From the information I have looked at the task force is funded by the government. I personally completely disagree with their most recent recommendations on mammograms and maybe inclined to disagree with them on others. People have worked for decades to get ladies to take a more proactive roles in their female health and this new recommendation will cause many to do just the opposite. I also find it interesting timing that the President’s new health care initiative will only pay for screenings that the task force gives an A or B rating and mammograms were just dropped to a C. I am very much in favor of listening to a broad perspective of advice and would appreciate any information you can pass on to me. Also I have noticed people writing in about how these screenings have helped them. Is there any known complaints that the screenings have caused them harm? That would be very interesting information and helpful to people in their decision making process. Thank you for your help.

Gary Schwitzer posted on March 16, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Liz,
Thanks for your note. I’ll try to address the points you raised.
Yes, the USPSTF is funded by the government in the sense that someone has to pay the expenses of the volunteer task force members who come from around the country to work long hours on top of their day jobs – just because they believe in evidence-based recommendations for the American public. I know several task force members. They are not “government bureaucrats” or “big government proponents” as some may have tried to paint them.
You are entitled to “personally completely disagree with their most recent recommendations on mammograms and maybe inclined to disagree with them on others” but on what evidence do you base that disagreement? These are learned, thoughtful people who deliberate for months on their recommendations.
Yes, as you say, women are encouraged “to take a more proactive roles in their female health” but it is a non-sequitur to say that “this new recommendation will cause many to do just the opposite.” How can educating women about the harms and benefits – the evidence – for mammography cause them to take a less proactive role? The essence of the USPSTF mammography recommendation was a promotion of shared decision-making and completely informed decision making between a woman and her doctor. How is that a bad thing? Many special interests have spun the USPSTF recommendations to make them sound evil and ill-considered. I encourage you to read the actual recommendations to see how terribly misconstrued their recommendations have been rendered by the biases of special interest groups.
Your assertion about “the President’s new health care initiative will only pay for screenings that the task force gives an A or B rating” is simply inaccurate. I’ve read some of the same rhetoric and fear-mongering that you apparently have, and it is a shame that such disinformation campaigns can actually frighten people when they are patently false.

Liz posted on March 17, 2010 at 9:45 am

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. Could you please address my question about people who feel the test caused them harm or unnecessary medical follow-ups? Have you received feed back from that group also. I have tried to find that sort of feed back on my own and have not been successful. I am thinking if there is this tremendous amount of people (whom I may add have $140 expendable income) getting these screenings surely there are some who feel they have been “dooped” or went for follow ups with their own doctors and realized they may have been taken. As far as individual feed back all I find is people who are glad they did the screening. I would like to hear from the group of people who were unhappy with their tests even more so than the task force.
My comment on ladies mammogram studies is accurate. The days following the recommendations were full of news reports from reporters going to hospitals and doctors offices to see if people were cancelling their mammograms and they were. I think a Google of those reports will bring the information up. Also this is a statement form the American cancer society, “With its new recommendations, the [task force] is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives; just not enough of them,” Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.
How can any one say it doesn’t save enough lives? I want mine, my daughters, my mothers, and the other ladies I know to have every opportunity to lead full productive healthy lives. A mammogram does not harm them and in some cases saves them. In my opinion there is no real risk involved and I will not let the task force tell me that even though there is no known potential harm in having the tests it doesn’t save enough lives when we all know people it has saved. In my case my aunt and two friends and all three individuals happen to be under 50 years old. Thankfully all three are still leading productive lives. At any rate I really do appreciate the time you have allowed me to ask questions.

Liz posted on March 17, 2010 at 10:14 am

I have one more question. If Lifeline is performing these tests and using medical professionals how is it insurance doesn’t pay for them? Do they use what the task force recommends as means to refuse payment? Just wondering? Thanks again!

Gary Schwitzer posted on March 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

Liz,
Anecdotes of relatives or friends don’t prove anything.
There’s a saying: “The plural of anecdote is not data.”
But, yes, in answer to your question, I have heard through the years from men and women who regret having had screening tests for prostate cancer and breast cancer, for example.
You should read this story – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article6898215.ece – about one such woman who said, ““Screening has caused me considerable and lasting harm. It has certainly not saved or prolonged my life.”
Those stories exist. They just aren’t told very often.
I have interviewed several dozen women who got a diagnosis of DCIS after mammograms and some of them stated similar regrets about ever having the test.
But, again, I don’t dwell on anecdotes and only respond with some when people insist on using their own set of anecdotes.
When people make population-wide screening recommendations, evidence is what matters. Data is what matters. Any individual is free to make whatever choice he/she wishes in the light of that evidence – including ignoring the evidence if one wishes.
And that element of personal choice, of shared decision-making, of assessing one’s own values and preferences is what has been lost and so miscommunicated to women in this very clear statement from the US Preventive Services Task Force:
“The decision to start regular, biennial screening mammography before the age of 50 years should be an individual one and take patient context into account, including the patient’s values regarding specific benefits and harms.”
No coercion.
No rationing.
No bans.
Just that it “should be an individual decision.”
Regarding your question about insurance coverage, you’d have to ask an insurance company. That’s not my line of work.

Soni posted on May 25, 2010 at 9:35 am

Well, I just received a letter from Karen R Law with Life Line Screening. I am sure there are paid services out there that sell information about our addresses, phone numbers age etc, so I am sure they know I am 35 years old. I don’t believe, considering my age, to be in the “at risk” group though. So, this proves that they send the info to a wide range of people, hoping that a lot of them take the bait.

Roxanne S. posted on June 7, 2010 at 9:07 am

If you want to hear from real people in real time with no one “filtering” the good or the bad, visit their Facebook page. You’ll hear the good and the bad there. My husband uses Life Line Screening because he is diabetic and has quite a few risk factors. His regular checkups are woefully inadequate in my opinion and this gives us peace of mind. I read a lot more positive than negative on the Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/health.screening

Gary Schwitzer posted on June 7, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Roxanne,
As you can see, no one “filtered” your comment, which was posted above.
Neither did anyone “filter” the comment left by the company’s chief medical officer, above.
But let me correct something you wrote in your comment.
Anyone who “is diabetic and has quite a few risk factors” is technically no longer in the realm of screening. The term “screening” is applied to testing in apparently healthy people with no known risk factors.
You describe followup testing – not screening – in someone at high risk.
The questions that are raised about screening is when it is offered to healthy people for whom we don’t have strong evidence of benefit from screening and may even see net harm.
It is crucial in this discussion to understand the distinction.
Someone who “is diabetic and has quite a few risk factors” is in an entirely different category.
It’s comparing apples and oranges.

Deb posted on June 25, 2010 at 9:52 am

From the comments exchange regarding Lifeline screenings, I am getting the message loud and clear that you are discouraging the waste of time and money for any screenings that are not recommended by a personal doctor such as mammograms and those offered by Lifeline.
My doctor does recommend that I get a mammogram every year because my mother had breast cancer (that was detected with a mammogram) but he does not feel any tests like the ones that Lifeline offers or in fact any others such as a baseline stress tests) are necessary.
While I am overweight, I am only 50, my blood pressure is fine and I have not have had any symptoms, or family history that would make me “at risk” for stroke or vascular problems.
I am one of those ladies that got a flyer in the mail and one that happens to have $140 of expendable income and 60 – 90 minutes of time to spare.
I am a widowed mother of a young child whose husband died with an undetected heart disease (I know unimportant and unnecessary anecdotes of relatives or friends don’t prove anything but I am just trying to justify my crazy state of mind for even considering this) so I was considering getting the screening, just to play it safe, when Lifeline came to my community. But I was on the fence wondering if I REALLY want to know if they do find something and more importantly are these guys just a bunch of quacks.
After reading your arguments for not wasting the time and money only to find out (whew) that all’s well . . . . or worse yet cause me undo considerable and lasting harm and stress if a false positive came back and then it turned out I could experience the relief of finding out that I was really fine.. . . . it helped me decide that my money and time will be better spent in a much better way.
Spending my $150 “mad” money by going out to a stress reducing gluttonous dinner with drinks and friends sounds like a much better way to spend my time and money. Heck I’ll even have enough for a good tip to the babysitter.
Better to wait until I am older, maybe not in as good economic and physical shape and more at risk with other possible complications (because I’ve waited too long) so the insurance companies can pay for it.
Much better the insurance companies pay for a $200/1 hour office visit for my doctor so he can agree to refer me to these same tests that cost twice as much money and time at his clinic or at the hospital. (Then we wonder why healthcare costs are unaffordable to many).
I know you don’t give medical advice but I do appreciate the advice you are giving to save the general public, and me in particular, from a potentially harmful and stressful waste of my hard earned money.

Gary Schwitzer posted on June 26, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Deb,
Your dripping sarcasm is also dripping with inaccuracies.
I am not, as you charge “discouraging the waste of time and money for any screenings that are not recommended by a personal doctor.” I never wrote that.
You are also inaccurate in referring to your annual mammogram – recommended because your mother had breast cancer – as “screening”. That is technically and semantically inaccurate. You are at higher risk. “Screening” is a term meant for testing in people of unknown risk.
I have addressed this point before.
If you don’t trust your doctor’s advice, that’s between you and your doctor.
If you want to spend your money on screening that is your call. More power to you. Best wishes.
You called ancecdotes about relatives and friends “unimportant and unncecessary.” I didn’t. I said they don’t prove anything. That’s a fact. They don’t.
Let me once again quote American Cancer Society chief medical officer Dr. Otis Brawley, who has written:
“There are some proven harms associated with screening. …
Many health care provider organizations and many well-meaning community groups … offer mass screening at health fairs and other activities. The American Cancer Society is concerned that so many do not understand that the benefits of screening are still undetermined. The ACS recommends against such mass screening activities because one cannot be assured that the patient has the opportunity to hear a balanced explanation of screening in an environment in which he can feel comfortable to ask questions and make an informed decision.”

“I heard a radio commercial that brings perspective to the issue. A local celebrity was promoting prostate cancer awareness. He said, “Prostate cancer is 100% curable when caught early.” He encouraged all men to get screened and announced that a van was touring the area offering screening in supermarket parking lots. This was a community service project sponsored by the radio station, the supermarket chain, and a radiation oncology practice. A commercial like this plays to our fears and prejudices.

Some of the confusion of screening can be avoided if we all clearly label what we know, as what we know; what we do not know, as what we do not know; and what we believe, as what we believe. Of course, one must not confuse what is believed with what is known to do this.”

If you want to ignore what your doctor is advising you, what the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society tells people about screening, and what evidence-based experts such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force tells people, you are so entitled.
Again, good luck and best wishes.

Shari posted on July 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I completely understand Linda’s endorsement of the screening process that yielded such important outcomes for her husband. Same thing (different specifics, but overall same situation) with my Dad. However, since he has been under near-constant medical supervision for the past several years due to bladder and prostate cancer treatment and surgeries as well as orthopedic surgeries, it came as a surprise to all of us (including his primary medical team) to discover the heart issues. To their credit, his physicians jumped on the screening results from life line without any negativity whatsoever and were, in fact, pleased to have the evidence (data) upon which to base a new course of treatment that has eliminated what they agreed was a legitimate source of concern (and which had been causing some long-standing problems for him that nobody had suspected were related to his heart).
However, I also understand Gary’s position. I believe the debate exists because we can consider this issue in terms of a theoretical population or an individual (ie, ourselves or someone close to us).
Either way, it’s an case study in the challenges of applied signal detection theory. Over a(theoretical) population sample, it’s valid to view a high rate of false positives with concern. Over a sample of 1 (ourselves, our spouse, our parent, etc), however, most of us shift from placing a priority on avoiding false positives to prioritizing hits and minimizing misses. Whether in a physician’s office or a mobile screening lab, it’s still a matter of probabilities, not certainties, and thus of deciding how conservative you should be in setting your decision criteria. You are unlikely to find the infinitely-narrow sweet spot in which there are nothing but hits and correct rejections, so there will always be some compromise.

Angela posted on August 28, 2010 at 9:34 am

Thanks for the information on this page but there is one thing I would like clarified if possible: are the tests actually accurate?
I got a letter in the mail yesterday that “Life Line Screening will be in [my] area for one day only” and I’m wondering whether it would be a good use of money and time or not. If the screenings are not particularly accurate in addition to raising the anxiety level of many people (which would likely include me) I don’t want to participate. On the other hand, if the screenings are fairly accurate and all of it is done in one place on one day, perhaps it is worth my time and money.
Do you have any thoughts about the above?

Gary Schwitzer posted on August 29, 2010 at 8:38 am

Angela,
Thanks for your note.
We don’t give medical advice, and your note is asking for medical advice.
Suffice it to say that you should do your homework very thoroughly because many questions have been raised about these screening practices and promotions.

Laura posted on September 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Is there evidence of false NEGATIVES in screenings by Life Line?

Jay Johnson posted on September 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Not only will Lifeline profit from follow-up screenings, but I would imagine that the company’s legal council recommends written notification of a return visit in order to protect themselves from a potential lawsuit from a patient who, after receiving a clean bill of health from one of their screenings, suffers from one of the tested conditions. I had Lifeline perform four tests on September 24, 2010. When I told the receptionist that I had recent bloodwork and an EKG two months ago, she readily agreed with me when I said that I did not need to repeat the procedures. Bottom line: I wish I had seen this report before I spent the $129.00, but I don’t regret having the screenings.

Bob posted on October 27, 2010 at 5:17 pm

My brother who is 54 years old received a flyer for a Lifeline screening (I’m 51). He passed the flyer to me coincidently the day before a follow-up appt with my doctor re: blood pressure medicine.
I took the flyer to my Dr. and asked whether I should have the tests. He encouraged me to do so and asked that I send him a copy of the results. He said ‘To have us do those tests would cost well over $1,000′. Seemed like a no-brainer to me.
True, it is ‘random testing’, but then, so was having my Dr. check my blood pressure two years ago and discovering I had high blood pressure (no family history, non-smoker, in good health).
Bottom line – it’s $130 well spent in my opinion.

B posted on November 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Don’t waste your money! It is a scam! I received their scare mail and went in for the screenings. After a long wait and paying a large sum I was told I would not be given the results- like it wasn’t MY business! They supposedly sent the results to my gp which I am not in contact with, and never received any information from about this. Much later they sent a report in the mail saying everything was in the “normal” range. Absolutely no numbers, nothing specific whatsoever! What a waste! After that I continue to receive their scam mail often stating my “risk factors”, which are bunk, and have requested repeatedly to have my name removed from their mailing list, and although they reassure me every time I call, I continue to get their scare mail. These tests would be covered by insurance if they were thought necessary by a doctor, so next time go through your doctor if you want to know anything because Life Line Screenings are a scam!

Carolyn posted on November 11, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Thanks for posting this information.
I received the letter in Johnstown, Colorado. I am over 50, so I fall into the target group.
Ten years ago, I would have just thrown the letter in the trash. However, as I have a Health Savings Account (HSA), I am very cognizant of what may or may not be covered by my health care provider. So I did read the letter and my initial thought was, “What harm could having the screenings do?”. Not wanting to buy without doing some research, I came across this site.
I watched the video and I was most influenced by the medical technician in the hospital that said it takes more than 4 minutes, closer to 20 minutes, to get a good idea of what is going on with the carotid artery test.
For me, I don’t think that it is worth spending the money for what appears to be a scatter-gun testing approach. It has prompted me to talk to my regular physician and have a conversation about what concerns me and how to get those concerns addressed. It is my humble opinion that we as a nation do not fully participate in our own health care enough. We tend to be reactive instead of proactive. Maybe it is human nature to be dismissive of changes in our bodies or health. And there is the argument for “there were no previous signs”. As regards that, my opthamalogist tested my eyes for 3 years before he was finally convinced that I had the onset of glaucoma; as it is one of those diseases that is very difficult to detect in its early stages. Fortunately for me, I had made regular visits to my opthamalogist for 7 years before that, so he had a baseline to work from. I guess my point is that if you don’t invest in your own health care on a maintenance basis then you won’t have anything to compare. But in relation to these LifeLine screenings, I think I would rather invest in testing that is of a higher quality. I wonder how many of us spend more on automotive maintenance than we do on our own physical maintenance? (I do realize this is also cause for a debate fraught with tension for those who have no insurance, but that is part of another conversation about how health care and insurance work in the USA.)
I think I would be more comfortable with the LifeLine screenings if the recommendation came from my doctor to have them done, than from receipt of a letter in the mail because I am in the target group.
Thanks for having the discussion on the site. It has been very informative.

Kara posted on December 29, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Are some of you posters serious? Screening is a PREVENTATIVE! If a “false” positive should occur, further testing can be done to prove otherwise. It sure beats finding out too late that your arteries are 99% clogged and you have 3 mths to live! You think a “false” positive causes stress? Try finding out about your health issues when its too late to do anything about it…THAT is STRESS.
I could care less what the Gov’t does or does not recommend because frankly, I don’t trust anything they say. While Michelle Obama is taking on “childhood” obesity; the FDA continues to allow harmful additives in our food, toxic plastic containers, etc.
Until the gov’t STOPS cow towing to lobbyists, BIG Pharma and the like and starts doing the “right” thing and PROTECT Americans from TOXINS as well as terrorists; we will continue to face HIGH cancer rates, heart disease, etc and will need PREVENTATIVE testing.

Gina posted on March 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm

You people crack me up.. You spend a few dollars $200.00 to get a Lipid test, Blood pressure, Heart Rhythm screen, Stroke Screening. If you relied on your doctor and who they send you too.. Unless you have GOOD co-pays or deductible do you know how much you will pay???
$$$$$. Even THEY are know to screw up at times!!! I think any SMART people would have a little peace of mind and if something comes up like ” Hey, after the screening today, you seem pre-diabetic ” then, lord people, make an appointment to see your doctor.. I have had all the heart tests done by a Cardiologist and my bill AFTER insurance with good ole Blue Cross was $800.00 and that alone was for the Heart Doctor. Not including my physcian that sent me there after an EKG $100.00 and Blood work $100.00 besides her office fee $100.00…Well, turns out my heart is in great shape after spending $1100.00 out of pocket to find out I have a healthy heart. So ease up on the people that may want to do the Life Line for a few $$… Everyone is different, it just MAY safe a life or save a poor soul like me the expense of $1100

Kevin Griggs posted on April 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm

The biggest problem I have with LifeLine Screening is that they didn’t send any results even after several calls and almost 3 months. They also haven’t refunded my $129. This is a scam business.

Galen Walter posted on April 30, 2011 at 8:47 am

Using data alone to make life decisions is filled with similar flaws that exist with relying on anecdotal “evidence”. I am a “data heavy” individual because my background is in the sciences. My wife has no science background and relies heavily on her intuition and personal life experiences. When my son was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome 15 years ago, the statistics said that it was a 1:100,000 chance that this should occur in someone his age. When you are the parent of the child given the diagnosis you realize that the statistic is meaningless. At that point you are 100% sure that your child was dealt this potentially life changing hand. In this cynical world, data and statistics can be twisted to “prove” just about anything and there is probably data out there “proving” my comment to be true (or, false). In reading this thread, the most disturbing comments about LLS are related to the results. Where does the fiduciary responsibility lie with LLS? Are they required to send the results to your primary and not to the person being tested? Do the results go to any insurance entity to determine future eligibility? What data is being gathered to show the benefit of these screenings? You would think that LLS would have tested enough people by now to have a significant database rather than relying on “individuals” posting their anecdotal “evidence” on blogs. I found this thread after receiving a mailing from LLS. My wife thinks it might have reached us because of our dealings with our “health coach” that we have been assigned through my employer’s insurance plan. That’s another story worth a good reporter’s time! I appreciate the opportunity to voice my own opinion. We are still weighing the decision on whether, or not, to participate in the screening. This will be a good topic of discussion with the “health coach”.

Mike posted on June 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm

It surprises me that some of you are so quick to discredit the benefits of early detection medical screening. I am in possession of LLS recent direct mail solicitation and I see nothing in their offer to lead me to think this is a “scam”. Just because they choose to use a mass-market, direct mail approach to get their message out doesn’t diminish the value of the screening. You get what you pay for and you’re not paying for a medical doctor’s opinion of your overall health. To me, this is money well spent to have a little peace of mind that all the crap we’ve been putting into our bodies all these years hasn’t caught up with us yet. Some of you folks need to think about that the next time you go to the grocery store and load up on processed white bread, soda’s and fruit drinks full of sugars and corn syrup. How about all the red meat and poultry that we consume that’s been pumped up with growth hormones, steroids and preservatives. What do you suppose that’s doing to your body? It amazes me that some of you will question the validity of LLS results, but you sure as hell aren’t questioning the quality of the food you’re putting into your bodies. If you don’t think the LLS are worth anything to you, then don’t get the screening. It’s your choice, but it’s not fair to criticize the company or call it a scam because you really don’t know. If you really want to reduce your risk of degenerative disease, the kind the LLS is intended to detect, then eat right, get some excersise, stop smoking, stop drinking alcohol and stop complaining about how the world doesn’t conform your ideal view of how things “should” be.

Ron posted on June 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I am in my fifties and in good health other than having high cholesterol for which I now take a low-dosage statin. I had my first LLS 3 years ago. The process was thorough and well organized. The staff administering the tests were pleasant, professional and seemed to know their field well. The results were mailed to me a few weeks after the testing and they were thorough. The five test areas were, Stroke/Carotid Artery, Heart Rhythm, Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, Peripheral Arterial Disease, and Osteo Risk. My doctor (who is an absolutely top-drawer professional) read through them and made them part of my record. I am due for another exam this summer and will have it done. Life Life keeps your results and includes them with a reminder notice to you for your next screening along with an explanation, based upon your past results, as to why or why not each test should be repeated. As far as anything I experienced with LLS, there is absolutely nothing phony, scam-like or superficial in what they do. I paid $129.00 for over an hour of testing– that seems like a bargain to me and money well spent. Will those results tell you everything you need to know about your heath? No, of course not but it’s useful information for you and your doctor. I wonder how many people kvetching about cost spent over that amount at Hooters or Walmart last week.

Bob W posted on July 4, 2011 at 11:57 am

I appreciate all the comments from the folks that have chimed into this discussion. I also received the mass-mail flyer. I am 50, in good health, do not have any symptoms of that LLS is screening for, and I do not regularly meet with a Dr. (ok, that is something I need to address!).
My reason for reviewing this blog was to determine if LLS is legitimate, if there is any history of undetected health issues from those that “passed” the LLS tests and if there are any horror stories from previous customers.
In my view, the key benefits of participating: early detection of health issues, peace-of-mind (if I passed), whether or not I should start more aggressively consider lifestyle changes or start a more formal healthcare schedule with a Dr. (if I don’t pass) and the opportunity for health testing not normally available to me performed at what seems to be an affordable value. ($149 for 5 screenings)
The downside to participating in the tests seems to be from those that oppose communicating the event via mass mail. That does not make sense to me. Every person can decide whether to sign-up or not. LLS has the right to advertise and consumers have an equal right to read or not read advertisement. It is up to the individual to determine what is ‘valuable’ and each person has an unique set of criteria to determine whether it makes sense to participate. A person can pay for the screenings, throw away the mailing, visit a Dr. if they don’t want to participate in the LLS tests or they can follow-up with a Dr. even if they did.
I do want to be able to see a more detailed result than a ‘yes/no’ answer. I think I will sign-up for the tests if LLS can give a better description of how and what results will be communicated (since I do not have a regular Dr.).

Della posted on October 13, 2011 at 10:32 am

I am a 52 year old female that has been facing some health issues. The issues are not related to the Arterial System. With knowing I have other health issues, I was contemplating getting this screening done when I received the letter from a local University who was sponsoring Life Line Screening. I thought that if the University was backing them it must be a good thing!
I am very cautious about anything that is attached to an advertisement. I searched the internet and found this site along with the BBB. Life Line claims they are an Accredited Business with the BBB. That sounds impressive but little do most people know that BBB Accredited Businesses pay a fee for accreditation review/monitoring and for support of BBB services to the public. BBB accreditation does not mean that the business’ products or services have been evaluated or endorsed by BBB, or that BBB has made a determination as to the business’ product quality or competency in performing services.
I am very glad I found this site. It changed my mind about having this screening done!
Thank you!
Della

    sandy posted on January 25, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    But did the BBB have any complaints that is where the BBB comes in handy. Have people brought claims against the LLS

Terry James posted on December 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I too am contemplating these tests, triggered by a similar direct mail piece. Here’s the thing. This is a very personal choice. For instance, who is better off, the cheeseburger eating smoker who gets a ‘clean” result, or the health-food exercise junkie who show problems? For me, I know my diet isn’t the best and I don’t see a doctor regularly (I know, I know). At 54, I think I “do” have risk-potential, but I feel perfectly fine. A clean screening is what I expect, but I know my diet is not like it should be and so I’m doing the screening to GAIN KNOWLEDGE…not to make a decision. If it’s clean, then I’ll probably not stress much about it…if it isn’t, then I think some good was done as I’ll be very motivated to prove/disprove the results with some additional tests (along with my doctor). Put another way, by way of example, at 54 I’ve never had a cavity in my teeth. About 4 years ago, having not been to a dentist for many years, I went to one who showed me an X-RAY with a little are he said was a developing cavity. BASED ON MY HISTORY, I suggested we not overreact but keep an eye on it. To this day, there is no cavity. My point is, I’m using this test to add some data that will propel future action/inaction. I will layer in common sense as well and, I’m certain I would have done NOTHING if not for the “unsolicited” mail.

Jeff K. posted on December 17, 2011 at 8:19 am

I am 55 and just lost my job. I will have to drop my health care policy. I decided to get these screenings along with a wellness exam from my Dr. prior to making the decision. I am adopted so I do not know what hereditary issues may be lurking. I know this is an imperfect world and anything can happen, but I feel a lot better dropping my health care after getting an “all clear”. The staff at life screenings were professional and answered all my questions. Unless someone has first hand knowledge that the staff is not properly trained or qualified I think the testing is a good Idea for older folks.

Edna posted on January 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I thoroughly agree with having a lifeline screening. I will have one everytime it is offered. Two years ago my husband died. However, having a lifeline screening 7 years ago gave him a better life. He decided to go if I would go because I was having some leg pain. At the screening, at an Elks Lodge in Edison they found a 7.6 aneurysm…suggested he go to his doctor right away, that doctor did not have a vascular surgeon that he could recommend. My daughter set up an appointment with the Head of the Vascular Surgery Department at Robert Wood Johnson…..(that doctor did not think too much of their test), but when he checked him he verified the aneurysm, and set him up for surgery implanting a stent…..because of his age and other problems. I wholeheartedly agree with these tests……my children also go to get checked at these screening because of the family history. My husband had no pain and no symptoms whatsoever. These are not tests covered by Medicare and not tests your doctor would normally perform.

Karen Haught posted on January 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I WAS GOING IN FOR THIS SCREENING WHEN I DECIDED SINCE I HAVE GREAT INSURANCE TO HAVE MY DOCTORS DO IT. BUT FOR THE PEOPLE UP IN AGE W/ NO INSURANCE AND HAVE NO DOCTOR CARE THIS MIGHT BE GOOD FOR THOSE PEOPLE SINCE OUR MEDICAL CARE PROGRAMS FOR THE POOR AND DISADVANTAGE ARE MERE TO NONE IT HAS TO BE BETTER THAN NOTHING, RIGHT? I HAVE HAVE DOCTORS MAKE HUGE MISTAKES ON ME SO ANY MEDICAL PERSON IS LIABLE AT MISTAKES OR ERROR. WE NEED A MUCH BETTER MEDICAL PLAN, FUNNY THING I THOUGHT WE HAD ONE BUT I DON’T SEE IT__

Theresa Filarsky posted on February 1, 2012 at 7:51 am

Well I read through them all and find it all comes back to one’s own personal decision as to what to do with your Life Line screening letter.
For me, a self employed active woman of 59 who has paid her own health insurance for over 30 years, the new Obamacare has decided that many of us over 55 don’t need an annual mammogram or pap test. (yes-everyone needs to read the “new” fine print!) Even those of us who have diligently paid our own (100%) health insurance monthly have had drastic cutbacks to tests that were once inclusive in our plans. I am not talking some low cost health insurance. Mine is Blue Cross Blue Shield and every Jan 1 it goes up $50.00 a month. (I now pay out $625.00 a month for 2 of us) and we have no health issues. Sorry to be so direct but I have acquaintances on Medicare who have had everything from eye exams to diabetic exams cut back since this new Brave New World regime of planned obsolescence of testing and care for the over 50 crowd has come along.
So, $149.00 for 5 tests? You think that is expensive? You think your insurance will pay for tests when “nothing is wrong?” Read it carefully folks. Your doctor has to suspect something and then recommend a specialist for further testing. You cannot go to a specialist yourself without a referral. Period. Or it will be your out of pocket. Or your insurance company denial. Ever deal with your State’s Department of Insurance and the big boys? Loads of fun.
So my husband and I will sign up. Because even if we walk into our doctor’s with a “false positive” it beats the alternative. We work hard for our money. We are frugal. But maybe because we are self employed and not dependent/eligible on government help and bailouts we understand the value of what is being offered. For me, $149.00 would be an investment in my health rather than a new outfit to an event. But only you can pick your financial battles. So for those grumbling about the money-there is no such thing as a free ride-ask all the socialist countries who once thought so :-)

E posted on February 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Any chance the results can become public information, and I can possible be denied life insurance coverage because the screening showed I had a potential life threatening issue?

Sarah Lewis posted on February 2, 2012 at 5:44 am

I was also considering going to the LLS screening, after receiving their advertisement in the mail. My first response was, how could it hurt?. After reading through this helpful page, with lots of good points, I tend to agree with Karen.

The argument that the test will give you peace of mind, so why not do it? Lead me to think, if I am going to pay for peace of mind, real peace of mind and I have insurance, I’d rather do it through my doctor. With trained professionals who are supervised in a controlled medical environment. So, I have decided to talk to my GP about having these tests done.

If I didn’t have insurance, I think I would do the tests, but I would make sure I know who is going to receive the test results?? I’d make sure the results of the test only went to me and my primary doctor!! I would also ask to see LLS’s accreditation and some kind of certificates of the people performing these tests, as well as the person reading the tests.

We have to ask questions to take care of our lives and if they can send us advertisements, with the claims they make, then as a customer, we have every right to ask questions.

Thanks for everyone’s opinions here!

    patricia posted on February 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Lets talk about why you need to think before believing everything you hear. I was in complete agreement with having the test and avoiding a medical problem. I had the test a few weeks ago and was told that my left artery was modately blocked. Needless to say I was freaked out!!! I took the life line test results to my family doctor who send me to get a Duplex Carotid Artery test. My test results were negative, I have no blockage. My arteries are completely clear. I spent alot of time worrying about this until I had the 2nd test. I don’t believe for a moment that I am the only mistake!

Gary Schwitzer posted on March 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

The original blog post is now 2.5 years old. It’s not uncommon for websites to close down comments after 6 or 12 months. So I’ve certainly let this go on longer than is often the case. Some comments continue to trickle in, but as there are already more than 40 comments posted and the new ones coming in seem to repeat statements already made in the previous 40 comments, I’m not going to post any new comments. There’s been a healthy exchange among true believers and skeptics. Which reminds me of an old line: “For a skeptic no proof is possible; for a believer no proof is necessary.”