Surviving America’s Healthcare System

Let’s face it, we don’t look for camping gear in Victoria Secret and that’s how I sometimes see my experience navigating our current medical system.  I have found myself upset, in tears, and furious mostly because of my expectations.  So if you are a proactive, empowered patient, I want to save those reading from such strong reactions; I have made a LIST of what to EXPECT whenever you are involved in the medical system.

#1  EXPECT that you might fire the doctor or the doctor might fire you

Rejection hurts especially when there’s power involved.  Believe me, doctors have ALL the power.  They are the gatekeeper to whether tests are ordered or prescriptions are written.  Be smart about the doctor you choose.  Certain websites like this one here on the American College for Advancement in Medicine has a directory that lists physicians who practice more integrative medicine.  Also, the Natural Awakenings magazine located at your local healthfood store usually has a directory of practitioners.  Who knows, maybe you are looking for “camping gear” but find yourself in the office of “Victoria Secret.”

ADDENDUM: For example, 75% of doctors wouldn’t choose a conventional cancer treatment commonly prescribed (chemotherapy)

#2 Do Your Research

Whatever goes into your body is your choice.  This means that it is your responsibility to investigate the medicine and treatment recommended by your physician.  Some people prefer to have the doctor make all these choices, but understand that YOU are making the choice to follow your doctor.  Since doctors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, keep in mind that your trust may not be the most prudent choice for your well-being.

TRUE STORY:  Five days post-op, in a five minute follow-up visit, a doctor told me, “I’ll give you this shot and all your pain will go away.”   That was all the doctor told me.  I left his office happy, feeling like, “okay, one shot, once a month, for six months, and I’ll be all better.”   I scheduled an appointment to see him in three days.   Then I got home and looked up the information.  There are websites for victims of this shot!  Needless to say, I never got the shot. DO YOUR RESEARCH.

#3  Keep a copy of all your medical records

You can request them by filling out a form, oftentimes you’ll be given a copy of all of them if you plan to get a second opinion and you want to take them to the new doctor.  Sometimes the physician’s office where you are asking for help will not fax the documents for you but will simply give you the documents to fax or mail.

Besides, reading your own operative report can be really interesting!

#4 Don’t expect ANYONE to know the price of ANYTHING

I wanted to know the price of an MRI.  At place A it was $2209 for those who had insurance and $640 for those who did not.  At place B it was $1800 for insurance, $600 for those without insurance,  but $550 was the “billable price” that insurance companies agreed to pay and I was required to pay 20% of that $550 amount.  Let’s face it, if I’d had insurance, my fee probably would have been the same most anywhere because I pay the co-pay based on the “billable price” that’s agreed on between the insurance company and the office that runs tests.

But if I didn’t have insurance, and this is the IMPORTANT NOTE to remember, my price might have been VERY different between place A and B.  Place B charged $600 for an MRI.  Hey, that’s a $40 difference.

So be vigilant as you investigate your options if you don’t have insurance.  Sometimes a medical emergency doesn’t allow us the luxury of time, but if you have it (and sometimes you can MAKE IT, see #5,) know that you often have more options than you think.  And if you are talking large numbers, be sure that someone writes that figure down for you and signs it/gives you their name.

#5 Don’t make any RUSHED medical decisions particularly out of FEAR

Finding out a new piece of medical information about our body can EASILY cause PANIC.  It takes a LOT and I mean a lot of sanity to tell the doctor you want a week or at least a few days to decide when she’s telling you to operate immediately.  YOU ARE IN CONTROL.  YOU decide your medical care, no one else does this for you unless you choose to let them.

#6 Ask to see the medications they are giving you at the hospital

I would do this when my husband had cancer and I couldn’t believe all the stuff they’d have him take (like anti-nausea medication or antibiotics for no clear reason).  When I had a hand ligament operated on, I was ecstatic when I learned that I didn’t have to take general anestesia.  Not only did I avoid that drug, but because I was awake, I was able to say that I didn’t want the anti-nausea medicine IV while in the OR.  The medical people love telling you that the medicine is TOTALLY SAFE which could be true in 99% of cases, but I might be that 100 and if I can avoid that risk, then I will.  Besides avoiding the risk, I avoided the cost as well!

#7  If you are the type of patient that reads this list and follows some of it, doctors and the medical system usually won’t like you

Be prepared to be called “non-compliant” and to be threatened in different ways with the POWER inherent in the medical system.  YOU ARE IN CONTROL.  It is YOUR BODY and YOUR MONEY, don’t believe anyone else.

OKAY, yes, you MUST form an alliance with doctors that you trust in order to receive the medical care that you decide on.  There are WONDERFUL doctors out there who are receptive and embrace a patient who is educated and self-motivated.  These patients heal most quickly or manage their illness with minimal difficulties; doctors love having you as a patient.

That said, it’s TOUGH being a doctor, especially a doctor that embraces more holistic treatments.  Oftentimes these doctors make less money and have endured the ridicule of their peers to make the choice they have.  Be kind to the doctor as you are kind to yourself in this stressful process of figuring out your journey to wellness.

Finally, they “won’t like you” because they have a job in the medical system.  This job probably is very demanding and stressful.  When you make requests that take up more of their limited time, their frustration will get placed on you.  I write this here so as a patient, you can not take personally what is a product of a complex system.  It helps me to remind myself of this if I’ve had someone’s  irritation pointed at me.

#8 Write down the name of who you spoke to and the date and time whenever making a phone call involving insurance or finances

This way when it gets to be the fifth or sixth phone call to the insurance company and you have the name and date of every person that you’ve spoken with, and if possible the content of what was said, you are equipped to file a formal complaint that threatens the profits of this company.  It’s great when you can name what was said and with whom you spoke, usually a lot (eventually) happens for you.

#9 Be willing to spend more time and money (in the short run)-YOUR HEALTH and HAPPINESS ARE WORTH IT

How can you put a price on your health? If you take the time and care needed to get the best treatment for yourself with the fewest, long-term, negative side-effects, that outcome is priceless.

For example, there might be a surgeon who is covered 80% on your insurance policy but the best that you know of is covered 50% because he is out of network.  YOU ARE WORTH THE BEST.  Ultimately, you want to pave a middle ground in these choices.  Only you know what that middle ground looks like.   I understand that medical expenses are the top cause for bankruptcy in the U.S., so that is why I am saying walk a middle path.  Ask for help to negotiate and get clear on a price before any action is taken.

#10  Be PATIENT, Be PATIENT, Be PATIENT and speak up

That’s your name in the medical system, isn’t it? Ha!  With the right attitude and expectations, you’ll navigate your way to the BEST possible medical care IN THE WORLD.  How LUCKY are you?!

Be patient and kind with the medical system; that doesn’t mean you fail to make an extra phone call one week later to see if you can get in to see the doctor earlier than your appointment in one month.  Be asked to be put on the “call list” for last minute cancellations and follow-up, kindly, once per week.  It is true that the squeaky wheel does get the oil!

 

THIS LIST IN ACTION:

I began the conversation with my doctor that I am “gathering information” (as I am only 7 days post-surgery) and am not yet prepared to make a treatment choice.  I ask her if she is willing to be my advocate.  I explain that in my research, 6-12 months after receiving the treatment she is recommending, most patients report a return of symptoms.  She agrees that what she is recommending is not a cure.  In addition, I know that these treatments cause horrible and potentially permanent side effects.

While she agrees to be my advocate at the time, one week later she drops me and refers me to another doctor.  Had I remembered #1 on this list, I don’t think I would have been so bothered.  A few days later, I have an appointment with a doctor who uses the natural form of the medication instead of the synthetic version.  I feel IN CONTROL of my treatment and positive that a healing outcome will be my eventual result.

My body has over 50 trillion cells.  I have 100 billion neurons that when put together are over 2 million miles long.  Every single neuron is capable of making 10,000 connections with other neurons.  Every second, each cell in my body performs over 100,000 activities.  The BODY IS AMAZING.  I trust that it will fully heal or that I can live the healthiest, happiest life possible with the condition that I face.

photo credit to Truthout.org

Questions? Contact me at HeidiCrockett@gmail.com

Remember, I want to help you live the healthiest life possible! –GreenLightHeidi

  1. Heidi,

    Your message is a cogent, elegant, sensible and experienced personal message that every thinking, self-caring person with common sense should want to heed. So, why is the medical system broken in this way (and it is WAY broken!)? Fundamentally I think this is so because in the development of cultures, especially Western Civilization (“silly-viz-ation” as a friend calls it), we have moved farther and farther from what is biologically correct and psychospiritually true. If this weren’t true then what is generally considered the epitome of scientific application, modern medicine, wouldn’t be challenging the integrity of our autonomy, mind, body, and overall well-being in the many ways it does.

    My research, experience has led me to entirely OPT OUT of modern medicine. This statement may sound crazy, as in impossible. But that judgement simply shows how propagandized we’ve become by the medical system and the effective lengths to which we have been intimidated by that propaganda. I would rather die than put myself in the hands of modern medicine; but fortunately these are not the only two options.

    That having been said, to the extent that one finds it “necessary” to involve themselves with the medical system, one should enter the medical relationship knowing (as you’ve said), and letting it be known to all, that the reins of your well-being are in YOUR hands. If the so-called “doctor” can’t tolerate that, then FIRE THEM! “The consolation” in them dropping you first is that, as Jonathan Swift noted, “you don’t have to be around them” and don’t even have to bother to say why–consider being dropped akin to having your cake and eating it too!).

    Fortunately, inspite of medical efforts to legally dictate our medical needs, we live in a democracy that (so far) allows for some choice. With enough like-minded people out there (who share your perspective) we will move away from the mediocracy that self-proclaimed medical authority (that lacks the wider expertise and scientific truth) would seem to want to impose.

    This is my “prescription” — intelligent rebellion.

    -Greg Hitter, PhD

  2. Dave says:

    Acupuncture is an excellent alternative to many healthcare treatments and can be low cost if you use a community acupuncturist. They can be found at pocacoop.org. We have one in Largo, St Pete and Safety Harbour, florida

    • Heidi says:

      I totally agree! Community acupuncture can be a low-cost way to effectively address symptoms especially pain. Dave’s “Largo Community Acupuncture” is great.

      If there is a massage school near where you live, they often have low-cost clinics where you can get an hour massage for something like $25, so that is another resource for those looking for cost-effective ways to look after their health 🙂

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