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$2,000 buys the 'ultimate physical'

Debate: The best in preventive medicine or testing overkill?

Debate: The best in preventive medicine or testing overkill?

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The 'ultimate' physical can carry up to a $2,000 price tag, and some patients say it's well worth it. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reports. (November 25)
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(CNN) -- Not satisfied with routine health screenings at the doctor's office, many patients are turning to an expensive alternative: the ultimate physical.

The all-day event involves teams of specialists administering dozens of blood tests, X-rays, scans, exercise tests, hearing and eye checks, and "lifestyle evaluations." It also carries a $2,000 price tag, Swedish massage included.

Some call the process pricey overkill involving unnecessary tests, though others say the one-stop comprehensive evaluations have helped discover problems that otherwise might not have been found.

Bill and Debbie Stoeckel decided to forgo average physicals and instead opted to spend a day getting measured, weighed, poked and prodded.

"I'm 51 and she's 50," Bill Stoeckel explained, "and I think at that age it's a great time to really start paying attention as the old shells we call bodies start to deteriorate."

Specialists pore over every result and every number, then offer counseling in the afternoon. The Stoeckels and others who've had the intensive physicals say more one-on-one time with doctors is one of the benefits.

"My regular doctor is a great guy, but he is busy, very busy all of the time," Bill Stoeckel said. "When you're here, you get a chance to sit down and talk with more than one doctor, and they're coming from different areas of the medical profession."

Stoeckel also said his prostate cancer was diagnosed during one of the expensive exams.

But critics say regular family doctors routinely do many of the same tests, including the PSA blood test that caught Stoeckel's cancer, and that the physicals cater to the rich.

No insurance is accepted, and the $2,000 must be paid up front.

Others say that amid so many tests, mistakes might be made, and patients could be worrying over results that might not amount to much.

And that's why Dr. Vincenza Snow with the American College of Physicians says she wouldn't have an ultimate physical, even if someone paid for it.

"Don't go looking for problems. I say, if it works, don't fix it."



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