Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Search for Integrative Physicians Covered by Insurance

I was so excited to find a wonderful Integrative Oncologist, only to discover that Integrative Oncology is not covered by insurance companies and is classified as "experimental."  Really?  You've got to be kidding! 

So if you're an oncologist and choose to look at cancer from a more holistic perspective, and include in your treatment wild and crazy things like diet, exercise and stress relief, you're thrown out of the club?  No frigging wonder there aren't more integrative physicians!

Let's take a look at what's going on here.  First, let's start with the definition (From Integrative Medicine article in US News and World Report) 
Integrative medicine combines state-of-the-art, conventional medical treatments with other therapies that are carefully selected and shown to be effective and safe. The goal is to unite the best that conventional medicine has to offer with other healing systems and therapies derived from cultures and ideas both old and new. 
Integrative medicine is based upon a model of health and wellness, as opposed to a model of disease. Whenever possible, integrative medicine favors the use of low-tech, low-cost interventions. 
The integrative medicine model recognizes the critical role the practitioner-patient relationship plays in a patient's overall healthcare experience, and it seeks to care for the whole person by taking into account the many interrelated physical and nonphysical factors that affect health, wellness, and disease, including the psychosocial and spiritual dimensions of people's lives.
Radical concepts aren't they?  So where's the rub? I'm guessing it has a lot to do with that middle paragraph and the notion of "based on a model of health and wellness versus disease" and "favors low-tech, low-cost interventions."  Big pharma can't make any money if you're healing your cancer with diet, supplements and yoga. Likewise, who needs all those hospitals and doctors if we as individuals take responsibility for our health?

But we do still need doctors, and we do still need traditional treatments and even those incredibly expensive drugs.  Integrative medicine is not just about natural, alternative therapies, it's about "uniting the best that conventional medicine has to offer with other healing systems and therapies."

How do you find Integrative Minded Physicians?

You may not be able to find Integrative Oncologists covered by your insurance, but you may be able to find Integrative Primary Care Physicians or Internists that are covered. That doesn't mean that everything they prescribe is covered, but you can at least have the benefit of someone who shares your values and approach. And that's important. Remember in an earlier post where I talked about the patient-physician relationship? Never underestimate the power of that relationship.

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