Times being what they are… Let’s talk about money and the cost of health care.
According to a recent LA Times article (http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-alternative-health-20100927,0,6669774.story), Americans spend $33 billion a year on complementary medicine. That’s 11% of all out-of-pocket dollars spent on health care. Clearly there is a demand for voices like mine in the conversation of how best to help you care for your health. Yet, one reason people still hesitate to go this route is the perceived higher costs.
An Ounce of Prevention…
It may be a cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason: because they are true! From my perspective as a doctor, it is far easier to keep someone healthy than it is to fix them once they are not. And given that in our culture we tend to put self-care off until the pain is extreme, it is doubly challenging and far more expensive to undo that damage than to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Let’s say you have low back pain. If it is a one-time recent occurrence and you treat it immediately, perhaps two or three treatments are enough depending on the severity of the pain. But let’s say you have had that pain for 5 years and you’ve had some treatment here or there but not enough to keep the pain from recurring. Given the chronic nature and the length of time, I’d probably tell you 8 to 10 treatments though you will experience a noticeable improvement before that. Then, once the pain is gone, we would scale back treatments but continue to do enough to rebalance your body and re-educate your movements so as to prevent the back pain from returning. In either scenario, once you are out of pain and are looking to prevent it’s recurrence than perhaps I’d only need to see you once a month for maintenance—clearly that schedule of treatment is far less expensive.
My goal, no matter the patient and their condition, is to get results as quickly as possible while at the same time empowering them to care for themselves through healthier living. Sometimes this can be achieved quickly and sometimes it simply takes time, especially if the condition is complex and chronic. In the end, I’d love to see my patients only once a month or even seasonally. If this is all they need, then clearly we have done good work to teach them to care for themselves.
Out-of-Pocket vs. Insurance
When a patient comes in to see me, I look into their insurance coverage. About 75% of the time, they have some level of acupuncture coverage. For example, as of this writing, Anthem Blue Cross covers up to $30 per visit for 12 to 24 visits per calendar year on most of their plans, so long as there is a pain diagnosis. Aetna has great coverage so long as you have 1 of 7 of their approved conditions for acupuncture treatment. United also has excellent coverage, up to $50 a visit, but with a slightly more lenient list of approved diagnoses.
If my patient does have coverage, then I will do all the paperwork for them, submit the claims electronically, allowing the patient to get their reimbursement within a few weeks. Sometimes, depending on the company, the patient will pay less up front and I will get the reimbursement sent to me from the insurance carrier. This system works well for most patients as it keeps them in charge of their own money, while easing them of the chore of doing all the paperwork.
Yet, some patients do not have coverage at all. For them or for anyone who is sincere in their desire for treatment, agrees to come in regularly, and needs the financial assistance, I am happy to be flexible with my rates. I do my best to work with my patients and not turn people away due to money.
My Various Courses of Treatment
I help my patients through acupuncture, herbs, and diet and lifestyle adjustments. In my ideal world, I’d see a patient weekly for a course of 8 to 10 treatments until we can get them more comfortable and progress has been made. All the while, we would work on empowering them through better food and lifestyle choices. Then, we would taper the acupuncture to twice a month and then eventually for monthly tune-ups. By then, they would be far more savvy about when and how to use me and my services to maintain their health and wellness.
Yet, this is not the only way I can help you. Some of my patients see me once a month for herbs. And so long as you make my recommended diet and lifestyle changes and stick with my herbs daily, change can be made and progress found. For some, this is all they need. I find that these patients tend to be the most active in their own health care. But for those that need more support or for those that have a condition that acupuncture is very well-suited to treat, weekly acupuncture visits can not only speed their recovery but they can also offer the support and encouragement to gently guide them toward making those necessary changes to better their health.
When you come in for your first visit, I will give you an honest assessment of the course of treatment that best suits your condition. From there, we can discuss how that fits your finances and time constraints.
Health care does not have to be expensive or inconvenient. But it does take an honest self-assessment and a decision that it is time to commit to feeling better. The world is an abundant place filled with endless possibilities. And whether we are talking about health or money, for change to occur and prosperity to be found, we must wake each morning knowing that today is a brand new day and change is possible.