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1/31/14

Health Care vs. Self Care

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Lately I've been thinking a lot about health care. Haven't you? I'm sure many of us are dutifully trudging through the paperwork that the new health care act has brought our way. But hey, I'm into it. Personally, I have been paying for private health insurance for myself an my son since I moved to California 4 years ago. Prior to that, I was on the Oregon Health Plan, a free plan that I received once I was pregnant with Asher.

For me, I have used our health insurance on and off for generally major things - giant face gashes (ER), pneumonia (ER), antibiotics (immediate care) and blood tests (laboratory). I have also used it for some "routine" pediatrician visits. 

However, my "primary care provider" is a local ND with whom I have (by now) established a long-term and knowing relationship. For general health and wellness, I turn to her. Several times she has successfully treated ailments and illnesses in both me and my child. If something does not require immediate care, I choose to go to her for several reasons:
  1. i know her, and she knows me. i have been going to her long enough that i feel comfortable at her office and feel that i have substantial history there.
  2. her office is cozy and lovely. finding "cozy" in the medical field can be challenging these days.
  3. she listens to me, and asks a lot of questions.
  4. she gives me options - generally i choose treatment with botanicals, but for certain issues, i will choose western antibiotics or antivirals, which she also prescribes. 
  5. i feel safe there. i have had a couple experiences in the past with misdiagnoses and improper treatments with Asher. this has not occurred here. 
  6. i trust her. based on my medical history in this office and the success of mine and Asher's treatments, I feel pretty confident knowing that I can be helped.
I pay for these visits out of pocket. I pay when I go in. It is not cheap, but it is also not very expensive in the grand scheme of things. My payment includes a fairly long (60+ minutes) office visit, plus whatever medicine I end up with. Again, to me this feels like a great investment in my health, my happiness, and my sanity. Additionally, certain things (like my blood tests), for  treatments through my ND's office can and will be billed to my private insurance. Win. 

The reason I'm sharing this is because I hear so many people saying "I have to go to this Doctor because that's who my insurance covers," etc. I feel like many people don't realize that very good (albeit "alternative") healthcare is very realistically within our reach. Of course you should keep going to what is covered by your insurance...but if they aren't listening to you, or if they continually mistreat/misdiagnose you, or if they just plain old can't figure out why the hell you or your child has been chronically ill for weeks/months/years, then I really think we should all feel empowered to seek alternative answers. In these cases, there is no such thing as too much information. And, once we are informed from all directions, we can then make educated choices for treatment. 

In each of our communities, there are doctors, healers, and educators who might be outside the traditional medicine box, but they have very valuable resources to share. They are also much more affordable than the highly-regulated maze of doctors/insurances that often overwhelms us. Again, i'm not encouraging alternative medicine as the only way, i'm encouraging it as one of the ways. 

I also know that I'm speaking from a privileged position. Many people simply do not have the cash to go to an alternative healer. When I lived in Portland, my primary health care was a community clinic operated by the National College of Naturopathic Medicine - a highly reputable school that created clinics throughout the city and staffed them with students and doctors. It was one of these clinics that diagnosed Asher with bilateral pneumonia (age 3) after he had been misdiagnosed and sent home ("perhaps he has an earache") by the doctor that was covered on our OHP. (We quickly made a bee-line for the ER after that. it was not a fun day). these clinic visits cost $20 per visit, and the medicines they prescribed were discounted ridiculously low. on the one or two times they had to send me to a western pharmacy for antibiotics, they sent me with magical vouchers that covered the cost of the meds. (btw, if you live in Portland, they still have these clinics and i highly recommend them!).

Depending on the community you live in, there are varying types of alternative healers around you. Once you step into their world, more doors will open and the learning has begun. 

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Between my local natural healers, Planned Parenthood, my family, and private health insurance, I feel that my health and Asher's health is very well protected and nurtured. This is also because of the way I was raised - I was raised by a mother who encouraged me to know my body, to seek healers, and to know what healing is. I notice when a doctor or dentist uses the word "heal" in conversation - many of them do not even use the term at all. 

This is probably the most political I've gotten in a long time on this blog, and I know this is a sensitive topic for many people. I'm interested in this stuff, though. How about you? How do you take care (medically speaking) of yourself and your children? Do you justify spending additional money on alternative health care, or do you feel like that is impractical? How do you form your network of healers? Do you ask friends, do you research the internet? Have you found a particular alternative medicine that works for you (or not)?

As we move into the future, it is vitally important that we learn to access healing as a community, that we learn (and are allowed) to trust our instincts, and that we know ways to access medicine and healing beyond just going to the designated physician on a provided list.

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I tried to keep the tone of this fairly mellow. While my Covered California application is being processed, I am continuing to pay for my private insurance, and I will not hesitate to run to the "real" doctor if ever there is a need. For my ongoing health and for more subtle issues, I will continue to utilize the alternative resources and network that I have available to me at this point in my life. This post is simply my way of letting people (especially women and mothers) know that you have the power to be healthy and to be taken care of. Sometimes we have to be creative and resourceful about it, but hey, what's new? Reach out to your friends, they may have more information than you know. 

The healer you need might be closer than you think.




Resources:

It occurred to me that some people might not have any idea where to start in terms of accessing healers, so I'm going to provide a list of ideas and ways to begin.

  1. Community acupuncture - this growing trend is spreading quickly through cities and small towns alike. Usually for anywhere from $15-40, you can get an acupuncture treatment through a community center. I have personally heard of acupuncture miracles, especially in the realm of female-only issues (menstruation, hormones, fertility, etc.)
  2. Herbalists - talk about majorly underpaid miracle workers! Herbalists are brimming with amazing healing information that can help you out. Ask around to find a local herbalist. In fact, it's possible that the "wellness clerk" at your local natural foods store is an herbalist, or at least knows one. Even if they don't have a "real office," ask for a consultation and I'm sure they'll be happy to give you one. 
  3. Nutritional Therapy Practitioner - I spoke about my NTP during my 30-day whole foods challenge. It all starts with food, friends! An NTP can give you a consultation and mojor download, complete with a beginning treatment plan all for $100-200. This could change your life and provide lots of information about what areas in your body need particular attention. 
  4. Naturopathic Doctors - In the article I linked to in the beginning of the article, it discusses various "Naturopath" terms and their certification and usage. Here in California, anyone can call themselves a "Naturopath," so what you really want to look for is a Naturopathic Doctor, or ND. Do the research in your state to find out who is reputable and who is not. I highly recommend using the NCNM Find a Practitioner page to find someone potentially amazing in your area. These doctors are generally pretty affordable (probably $200-$400 per visit, depending on where you are, etc) and highly informed and trained. They provide holistic health care as well as western medicinal treatment when needed. If you live in the Portland area, click here to find out about their clinics and see which one is closest to you. 
  5. Urgent Care or Immediate Care - perhaps many of you already know this, but Immediate care has a shorter wait, a less-stressed staff, and is cheaper on the insurance and the wallet than the ER. Keep it in mind as a resource for certain things.

p.s. I'm taking a break from FB, so share this post with any ladies who you think should see it!

2 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh! I love this post and have been working on one of my own in the same ilk. I'm proud of you of how this comes across.

    Coming from a place of both lifelong exposure to alternative treatments and socialized allopathic options being very affordable, I am really excited for the turn the affordable care act has taken this country to.

    Our families have the same "patchwork" approach to medicine, from PP, to a Naturopath/ MD, to using acupuncture and message and energy work to alleviate, aid and strengthen.

    We use allopathic sparingly, mostly for emergencies and always side by side with other treatments and rely heavily on preventative care. This year I've really delved into the realm of Ayurveda and it has made a huge difference in our preventative world. Like you, I try to make a lot of our own medicine and even extend that to long-term health products like toothpaste and creams. At the same time, I try really hard not to become one of those people who judges others for getting vaccinations, or taking the pill, or choosing to take antibiotics.

    A couple months ago, I sliced my finger to the bone with a mug and even though our local nurse was able to piece it together without stitches (clean cut, dirty surroundings) and free of charge(!), I chose to take a booster shot of tetanus that she recommended (the only shot I've voluntarily chosen to take ever). Having to listen to self-righteous and judgmental comments about that did nothing for my knowledge of health, except make me resent the kinds of people that would make those comments. And I'm already anti-vaccination, so I can only imagine the kinds of damage that those kinds of comments would incur from people who didn't know the other side of vaccinations.

    I think that as long as people make informed healthcare decisions I'm happy for them and as long as they too are open to discussion I'm excited to benefit from their perspective.

    Most often I make medical decisions intuitively, feeling out in what turns out to be the Ayurvedic sense, whether the solutions available to me make sense/ feel right. I've forgone antibiotics based on this sense, but I've also gotten pretty good at going to the doctor and asking for what I need. Being your own advocate and knowing your body is really the best way to deal with modern medicine in my experience.

    Thanks so much for this post, I could go on and on ;)

    I love your list of resources! Love ya!

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  2. Thanks for the awesome comment, Milla! YES, ayurveda is so helpful and informative. I am just starting to feel my way around it - and I love how it customizes treatment and remedy based on our constitutions. similarly, if a particular organ or system is weak, i will often try to seek out the chinese medicine download on that specific area to find out what it is connected to emotionally and in diet, etc. like you, i could go on and on. i tried to keep it simple in the post. ;)

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