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Tips for Dealing with the Healthcare System

As they approached their golden years, one problem Philip and Ruth Barash didn’t foresee was having to struggle through their country’s healthcare system.

“Philip’s health problems began in 1988 and steadily continued until his death in 2012,” says Ruth Fenner Barash, who shares the couple’s harrowing healthcare experiences in her book, For Better or Worse: Lurching from Crisis to Crisis in America’s Medical Morass. “We were in and out of doctors’ offices, hospitals, and emergency rooms a lot, and I was shocked by the lack of compassion we frequently encountered, as well as the number of healthcare professionals who simply are not good diagnosticians.”

Barash’s cautionary tale details a medical journey fraught with mismanagement and excess, useless interventions, and a sometimes complete disregard for pain.

“The art of intuitive, compassionate healthcare is dying as doctors rely more on technology and are guided through an arbitrary template established by insurance company policies,” she says.

To help patients and their loved ones deal with the healthcare system and avoid many of the difficulties she and her husband faced, Barash offers the following suggestions from their experience:

  • Avoid the emergency room. “They’ve become very crowded…and patients might wait for hours sitting in hard plastic chairs in the waiting room,” Barash says. “For someone who’s sick or injured, this can be torture.”

  • Be skeptical-question everything. “If you have the luxury of time, take some of that time to think things through, to research and get second opinions,” Barash advises.
  • Ask about the benefits of a treatment and what it will cost-no matter who’s paying. Be as skeptical about a procedure proposed by a doctor as you would by any salesman.

    Also, whether our hospital bills are fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance, or we’re paying a portion ourselves, we should include cost in our discussions with healthcare providers.

    “Part of the blame for having the most expensive healthcare system in the world goes to us, the individuals who don’t question purchases or shop for prices as we would for groceries, clothing, or furniture,” Barash says. “If a test or consultation is ordered, understand why. Is it really necessary? You can say no!”

  • Have an advocate! Avoid dealing with the healthcare system alone; if you do, your risk for harm will increase dramatically.
  • Don’t get sick! Do not take your health for granted. Unnecessary health risks such as smoking; illegal drug use; excessive alcohol intake; and a diet filled with sugar, salt, and fat will take you sooner rather than later into the risk-filled healthcare system.

Barash warns that the U.S. healthcare system is not always the benevolent safety net many people believe it to be. It can also be abusive, incompetent, callous toward patients–and worse.

“Patients and their loved ones cannot blindly turn themselves over to this massive, technology-based system and trust that it will care-or take care of them,” says Barash. “We did experience some wonderful healthcare professionals…but they were not the rule.”

This story was adapted from material provided by News & Experts.

Ideas expressed are those of Ruth Fenner Barash and do not constitute an endorsement by Amplitude Media Group.