Thursday, April 26, 2012

In my shoes (which happen to be from Target clearance racks).

Yes, my shoes are indeed from the Target clearance racks. I will spring "good money" for the sneakers I work out in, if you consider "good money", $100. But, otherwise, the majority of my clothes are hand-me-downs (thank you, kind sister-in-law!) or from Target, the thrift shop, or discount department stores like Marshalls.

Where I don't spend in clothing I do spend on food and health care. Some of my spending in this area of life comes from necessity. We were entrusted with the care of children with chronic medical needs. I, myself, have chronic medical needs, and that has forced our hand in where we spend a lot of our money. Nevertheless, there is room for me to be frugal and thoughtful about spending in this area and that's what I want to discuss in this post.

My husband and I are fortunate to have health insurance provided to us via LA's employer. I know health care is a hot topic and in the process of change and potential overhaul, but for now, we are still carried under my husband's employer. Is it the best plan out there? That's a rather difficult question to answer, and I would love to have some time to do some research on it. But, at the moment, I'm trying to teach my kids, get dinner on the table nightly and keep my home in some semblance of order and cleanliness.

This week was a difficult one because it involved several decisions for our family's health care.We found a great pediatric dentist when my children first started needing one. At that time, she was covered by our insurance. Three years ago, she stopped participating with our insurance; it was a sad day when we learned this fact. We LOVE our pediatric dentist. For locals, it's Dr. Diana Capobianco with Growing Smiles. Not only is the office super kid friendly, now with 5 IPads loaded with games, every employee from the hygenist to the billing clerk is friendly and helpful. To boot and most importantly, Dr. Diana knows about Sturge-Weber Syndrome (SWS), my sons' diagnosis, and how to deal with Port Wine stains (PWS) in the mouth, which my son also has.

I have opted to have my children remain patients at Growing Smiles, but I have had to be thoughtful about managing our health care costs. So, instead of going every 6 months, I have had two of my cavity-free children go for cleanings and check ups only once a year. I have one child who is prone to cavities, and now apparently after this week's visit, two children (sigh).

After this week's check up, it was discovered that one of my children needs a filling. Add to that life's curve balls; this week one of my sons chipped his adult tooth, and it needs repaired. Decision time.

Instead of having our pediatric dentist do the filling and repair, I decided I would have my husband and my dentist, who is 100% covered with our insurance, give it a try. He's a great dentist as well, just not specialized in pediatrics. Nevertheless, I have confidence that if my children cooperate well enough, he is a very capable dentist and will do a great job. He doesn't have the lovely air balloon murals on his walls or IPads in the waiting room, but he'll get the job done. Compromise is the name of the game when managing health care costs.

This was difficult for me because it meant that I had to tell our pediatric dentist that, "Hey, we can't afford the care we think is best for our children, so we're going to go with what we feel is second best." Ugh. That was humbling for me. For some, this might not be an issue. But, for me to tell a health care provider, "I can't afford your services" whether it is for my children or myself is very difficult for me.

At least in the United States and in particular, Maryland where I live, options for how to pursue optimal health are abundant. In my own journey toward good health, I have sought out professionals or services not covered 100%  by my insurance. I have made changes to our eating habits and lifestyle that are costly. And, I continue to face decisions on how much to spend and how far to take this pursuit of health.

How much is enough?

We have a heart to give as much as we possibly can to the advancement of God's Kingdom albeit through supporting the ministries of our local church or through organizations other than our local church. We want to support teenagers wanting to do summer missions' trips. We want to fund adoptions for those pursuing them. We want to support many of my friends doing campus ministry among college students, the "game changers" of our future. And, I recognize that the decisions I make for our health care directly affect how much is available to give to these and other important causes.

So, here are a few (humbling-at least for me) ways I've attempted to do the best I can in this area:

1. Ask for samples. I have had to regularly call my primary care provider (PCP) to ask him to set aside samples of a medication I take daily. Recently my dose was increased, and the way it works with insurance, I would be paying the price for two prescriptions in order to fill my dosage correctly. That may sound complicated; it is. So, my solution has been to call my PCP once a month or so and say, "HI, this is Briana again calling to see if you have any samples of ....that you could set aside for me?"  Thankfully, they have samples in stock and are kind enough to set them aside for me thus far saving me a ton of money!

2. Take time to think about the treatment plan. Unless one is facing an emergent situation, such as an asthma attack, TIME is on your side. I've been in numerous situations where we have a problem, the doctor has a solution but it's costly. Rather than cower to the pressure of the "expert" telling you what your best course of action is, ask for time to go home and think about it. Do research. Talk to your nurse/doctor friends if you have any. Especially with issues that affect children, in talking with other parents, you may find someone who's been down the same road and pursued a diffferent and less costly treatment plan. Facebook and other social media can work for you in this way! Use it. Remember that doctors, while most sincerely want only the best treatment for their patient, can still be driven the insurance companies who pay them, which are undoubtedly driven by the bottom line!

3. Say "No, we're going to wait and pray." This may raise an eyebrow or two, but I can attest to the faithfulness of God when I have trusted my "gut" and followed this course of action--no action. Thankfully, in our country we still have the freedom to go against medical advice, especially as it concerns our children. There are doctors advising all kinds of treatments for children these days--anti-anxiety medications (ask me how I know this!), other behavioral modification medications, and even flu shots. Now, I am certainly not opposed to pharmaceutical interventions when they are necessary, and at times they certainly are necessary and helpful. But, I do believe pharmaceutical medicines are quickly and  incredibly over prescribed before time has been given or other options considered.

As a believer in Jesus, I know the greatest Physician of all time. I know the very ONE who fashioned and formed my very being. I know the ONE who knit my children together in my womb and knew of them before I even did. I have access, FREE access, to the best, world famous, as my son would say, Physician of all time-GOD. There are times we need to manage our health care costs by managing our hearts to remember Who really is the One who heals us and sustains us.

Money doesn't grow on trees, at least not in our back yard. So, I've had to learn ways of managing an area of significant expenditure in our family. I have more to learn, I am sure. But, I hope what I have gained along this relatively short journey I have been on for the last 8 years may benefit someone else.

1 comment:

krista said...

Appreciated reading how you've wrestled with these issues! I too have had similar thoughts, and am still trying to find that healthy balance. Thankful the best Advocate in the world has our back as we seek to be faithful and wise advocates for our families.