What To Do When the Healthcare System Fails You

I’ve been down this road so many times. Butting heads with my doctor, bumping up against insurance, getting incomplete and rushed recommendations, not receiving the support I need to feel better, fighting surprise bills…..it can be beyond frustrating. Let’s face it – our healthcare system is far from ideal – it’s less about healthcare and more about profit.

When the healthcare system fails you, you have one of two paths. You can take the path of least resistance, become complacent, open your mouth and swallow the pill. Or you can demand better care, take action, challenge the standard recommendations, and receive the care you deserve.

I’ve had many different insurance plans and many different doctors and the conclusion I’ve drawn is that you have to be your biggest advocate. When you’re fed up with your doctor and you’re not able to get the help you need because of insurance roadblocks, what do you do?

Seek Out Other Options

My dad always reminds me that there is a solution to every problem. If your doctor is not meeting your standards (which should be high – this is your health we’re talking about), start by finding a new doctor in your network. Look up reviews, ask around. A good website for doctor reviews is Health Grades. But you can also ask family, friends, or coworkers since they are likely to have the same insurance plan as you. Ask for recommendations on Facebook.

If you’re hitting a roadblock with your insurance-covered doctors altogether, consider a new plan. Some states offer insurance co-ops that are more affordable. You can also check your eligibility for state insurance.

And if those are not options because of your location or income, try an out-of-network provider. If you have a Health Savings Account through work, you can pay for their services with pre-tax dollars. Or ask for an out-of-pocket discount. I know several naturopaths who offer this. If your goal is to have optimal health, you need to invest in your health.

There are also other practitioners to consider besides medical doctors. Nutritionists, health coaches, dietitians, nutritional therapy practitioners, for instance! Many of us offer affordable (or even no-cost) options. Think of it this way – food can be a huge factor in your health puzzle (in fact, it IS!). A health coach/nutritionist can help you spot nutritional deficiencies, dietary sources of inflammation, food intolerances, absorption issues, gut problems, and so much more. Making changes in your diet can make all the difference in your health. It did for me. Read more about my journey.

Health Coaches without Borders is a free health coaching service. I also know of a few other options, which you are welcome to contact me about.

Bottom line, if your doctor doesn’t work out, find another doctor or another provider. If your insurance plan is limiting you, think of your health as an investment.

Invest in Your Health

Healthcare can be expensive. What is your health worth to you? When you envision your ideal health scenario, what does it look like? Do you have energy to get through the day? Do you experience a pain-free life? Do you sleep well? Have comfortable bowel movements? Do you feel well most of the time? What is that worth to you? If it’s worth something, then be ready to invest in it.

When I hear people say they can’t afford organic or grass-fed or high quality supplements, I can empathize. But at the same time, I wonder if these high quality foods are only expensive compared to their cheap counterparts, which can include artificial ingredients, stabilizers, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, GMOs, all of which build up the body and create free radicals, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and illnesses. Then when your health fails you because you mostly consume processed, low quality food, how much will you end up spending on pharmaceuticals? Doctor’s appointments? Tests? Treatments? How many sick days of work will you have to take?

Your body works best when it has the highest quality fuel, the nutrients it needs to function, the sleep it requires to recover. To give yourself the best possible health outcome, you have to invest in yourself.

What does this look like? Invest the time to take a look at areas of your life that could use some cleaning up. Do you have a lot of plastic food containers? Do you use body care products that contain parabens and fragrances? Do you buy a lot of packaged foods? Do you shortchange yourself on sleep? Focus on what you want to change and which practitioner can support you in that. Find one you like, and invest in their services to support your health. This could even be treating yourself to a monthly massage to manage stress.

Use the System

Yes, healthcare is expensive, especially if you elect to pay out of pocket for services or decide to invest in things that aren’t typically covered by insurance, such as hypnotherapy. So if there’s a way to use your insurance to get what you need, try and find that way. For example, my insurance covers screening tests such as a lipid panel, thyroid hormones, ferritin, etc. I get the blood work done and have my naturopath interpret it for me (or I look at it myself because I know how to read labs). If there are additional tests I wish to pay for, I’ll add those on. I also have a Health Savings Account, which many employers offer. This is a pre-tax account for medical and health-related expenses. I use that for out-of-pocket expenses my insurance won’t pay for.

Fight For Your Health

If you cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket expenses for a provider you feel would better serve you, then demand more from your doctor. Don’t leave until you have all of your questions answered. Challenge them – ask why they are prescribing a certain medication, if there’s a natural alternative, if they can refer you to a specialist in your network, or find another doctor your plan covers. Don’t settle until you feel satisfied with the care you are receiving. Remember, this is your health. Your doctor may try to get you in and out in fifteen minutes – demand more from them.

Do Your Research

Don’t expect your doctor to be a know-it-all. Do some research on your own. Read blogs, medical journals, or books on nutrition, supplements, and medicine. If you are going to the doctor’s office with a specific health concern, check out what complementary medicine has to say about it. Perhaps look into what tests you might need to get. Go to your doctor equipped with some knowledge and use them to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of. Some doctors won’t like this, but other doctors might respect that you’ve done your research and are more willing to do their part in digging for the right treatment plan for you.

Rethink Your Healthcare

No matter the physician, you know your body best. If you don’t, your first task is to get to know yourself. We can’t expect even the best of practitioners to give us all of the answers. They do not live in our bodies, they cannot truly know what we are going through. And for that reason, you need to be your biggest advocate even more so.

I highly recommend the book Undoctored. The book discusses how we cannot put everything on our doctor because (1) many conventional doctors are going to provide the quickest and most lucrative option and (2) we need to take responsibility for our health. We have to feed our bodies properly, get physical activity, sleep well, manage stress, and do our own due diligence to keep our health in check. And then we have to collaborate with our doctors until we find the best solution for our health, not expect them to “fix” us without side effects. That’s not how conventional doctors are wired. If you want true health, you need to be ready to do the work and you need to be willing to pull most of the weight.

We have to advocate for ourselves in the doctor’s office but we also have to take responsibility for our health and we can do that by becoming informed about the right foods and supplements to consume and then implementing health-building habits. I’m here for you if you don’t know where to start or want more information on how to achieve better health. Just ask!

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