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What is the Real Cost of Healthcare?

One of the biggest obstacles I encounter in prospective clients is protest against the cost of functional medicine. I get it. I was there with my thinking too at one point. But, early on in my health struggle, I realized that the cycle of trial and error and spending money based on only the doctors and services my insurance would cover would ultimately lead me nowhere. The truth is, I went into debt in order to finally get my health back. But it was worth every penny, and ultimately gave me back my ability to earn more than I could when I wasn’t well. I’m not here to tell you to go into debt by any means, but I do want to walk you through a cost comparison of an allopathic, insurance-driven model of medical care and a functional medicine model of health care.

Outside of medicaid and medicare (which have issues and my not even be around 10 years from now), when you consider the cost of medical care from an allopathic model, most people have a deductible that ranges from $2500 to $8000 per year, and possible a copay at every office visit. Once the the deductible is met, their care is essentially “free.” However, they also don’t factor in the monthly insurance premium deductions from their paycheck, which could range from $150-$300. Over the course of 12 months, this monthly insurance premium cost adds another $1800 to $2400 in terms of income you are not getting from your paycheck. Adding these up, the yearly cost of conventional health care could range from $4300 to $10,400, possibly a little less or a little more in some cases. And any prescription meds often go above and beyond this cost. For all this, you get several trips to the doctor over the course of the year that include 15-30 minutes of face time each time you see the doctor and sometimes a basic generalized educational handout (like the low FODMAP diet guidelines) and likely a prescription for a med to take care of any symptoms. Discussions on diet, lifestyle and mindset are rare to non-existent in this model of healthcare.

Comparatively, let’s use the cost of working with a functionally trained practitioner like me. I like to offer my clients three different price points and levels of support, as I recognize that cost can be a major factor for many people. Let’s say my client has run a set of labs and has already been through a report of findings session to understand the results of those labs (costing around $1300 total) and is now interested in a 3-month program that gives them access to an online learning library of education and resources, 2 follow-up one-on-one sessions with me, customized lifestyle, diet, and supplemental recommendations, as well as access to learning skills to help regulate stress and emotions. They also would get coaching around habit change and limiting beliefs to help address the mental-emotional-spiritual imbalances that inevitably are a part of every chronic health issue. This 3-month program costs $1800, but compared to allopathic medicine, not only teaches the client nutritional and lifestyle knowledge they can now use for the rest of their life, but also gives them a customized tailored plan to address their specific health concerns, rather than a one-size-fits-all medication. They also go into the program with a solid understanding of root contributing factors to their constellation of symptoms and what they can do about it. For a total of $3100, they get lot of lingering questions answered that they couldn’t get answered from allopathic medicine, validation that there is something “wrong,” and a very personalized health approach and plan for how to address the findings.

So when we talk cost, it’s important to think about the value you are getting for the cost spent - whether it’s in conventional medicine or functional medicine. Now, if you truly need a hip replacement, or a major surgery, the yearly $5000-$10,000 deductible and monthly insurance premiums become a pretty good spend of the money. But, spending that kind of money year after year and feeling like you are only getting the runaround or drugs to bandaid symptoms…?

Now, it’s certainly not my aim to convince anyone to opt out of conventional medicine or insurance. I feel everyone needs some kind of catastrophic insurance, at the very least, in place for accidents, major injuries and other emergency events. And there is certainly a time and place for conventional medicine. What I actually aim to do, is to get you to understand how much you are paying for the cost of conventional medicine over the course of many years, and what you will get in exchange for that cost. Unfortunately, the huge cost this adds up to over many years in an allopathic model is by design of that system. You won’t get to the root of your health struggles in an insurance driven system because getting to the root of health issues and actually correcting them does not make money for the insurance companies. People staying unwell and continuing to struggle with symptoms and becoming dependent on drugs for the long haul is what makes money for insurance companies. Drugs are often recommended early on in the stage of disease progression to manage symptoms. As we age, and as these root cause issues are not uncovered and identified, the risk of more serious health issues like cancer and heart disease go up. Once a person has crossed into the serious disease territory, even with insurance, heart disease will cost on average over a million dollars and cancer will cost on average over $130,000 per person. This is meaningful since 4 out of every 5 people die from either heart disease or cancer. It’s no wonder that overwhelming medical bills are the number one reason why Americans file for bankruptcy.

So, yes, if you decide to work with me for 3 months, it will cost you around $3100 with lab testing. If you decide to work with me for 6 months, it will cost you around $5,500 with lab testing. But, you will now know what’s going on beneath the surface and have a functional plan to deal with it. You will also have knowledge and skills to maintain a new level of health for life and avoid the exorbitant costs of serious disease and illness later in life. When you compare a one-time $5,500 investment in functional medicine to $5,500 per year for your deductible, plus the potential of spending $130,000-$1,000,000 down the road to deal with a heart disease or cancer diagnosis (unless you are the lucky 1 in 5 people)….you really start to see how functional medicine saves you not only money, but also saves your quality of life from deteriorating over the long haul.

So, all I have to ask you at this point is, what is your health truly worth to you?

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