Whoa. Yikes. Eeeek. Ouch.
These are facial expressions that I can feel and see from people when they first hear what it costs to take on the functional medicine process. It is expensive.
But what is the alternative? Going to a doctor that would see you for 7 minutes and tell you that all your symptoms or feelings are imaginary, or that you can keep your life exactly the same and take this pill, and then this pill, and then that pill.
As Americans, we are not used to seeing healthcare costs. We have no idea how much things really cost because our system blinds us. I am far from an expert in fixing the current medical model, but you don’t have to be a genius to see that this thing is limping along and leaving a lot of suffering in its path. Medicare pays 32 cents on the dollar and accounts for 60% of admissions. Not only do all of us pay for that with our tax money, but it creates a racket where no one really knows how much things cost because insurance companies negotiate their rates and then decide what they will pay for based on necessity. No one is happy. According to the WSJ, of 12,000 surveyed conventional medicine physicians, only 6% described morale as high, and nearly half plan to reduce their patient load or stop practicing in the next 3 years. Interestingly, 30-50% of them said that if given the choice again, they would not enter the medical profession.
These two pictures are worth millions, billions, and possibly trillions of words.
Holy…Sh$t! 99% of Medicare spending is on chronic conditions. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the elephant in the room – the system is not built for treating chronic disease.
When I worked for an orthopedic surgeon, no one knew how much he costed, except the occasional Mexican immigrant family who would pay cash for treatment. But, I knew he made quite a bit from translating for these encounters, and when lawyers would pay him, he would make $700 per hour to talk with them about accident cases. This is fine; he should make a lot of money. He was one of the best surgeons in the area, went to school forever, and is highly skilled. The problem was no one knew how much he cost because generally they didn’t pay for it, at least right away.
Maybe you don’t have a torn rotator cuff, but an auto-immune disease or chronic GI symptoms, and now you have to look outside the system for knowledge, face-time, and care. Insurance doesn’t cover these visits, and people start to see the actual costs, and they are typically frightened or at least surprised.
On the functional med side, there are many docs that completely separate themselves from any financial questions. I know some docs who don’t even know their consult rate. It is not unheard of for patients to spend $2,500 to $10,000 for extensive in-office testing. I don’t hold this against any of these practitioners, as they are generally very, very good and do their job well. They advise what is best for the patient as far as course of action and further testing, and then these patients talk with the front desk about financials. These docs mostly see chronic patients or the extremely wealthy. That isn’t my client base, and I don’t have a front desk.
When you see really sick and complicated cases, it makes sense to run a huge battery of tests upon intake so you have as much information as possible. For instance, Chris Kresser’s intake testing is likely close to or well over 2k. That’s just the testing. Also, when people are really sick, money becomes a tool for them. I know that if Steph or my family got sick, we would spend everything to get them the help they needed.
But what about when people are relatively healthy, and they want to optimize? Should they expect to spend less? Well, essentially yes, but the answer is that we don’t really know, and sometimes being frugal can bite you, and sometimes it pays off. In a sense, we are gambling. We are gambling that we can work upstream with lifestyle changes and prophylactic treatments and potentially fix other problems downstream. With healthy clients, 90% of the time, it works all the time. But if it doesn’t, we will need to run further testing.
But what about tests like heavy metal toxicity, where everyone comes back toxic. Or even Adrenal Stress Indices, where I haven’t tested a single American who has a normal diurnal rhythm, and some experts say there is no way one day really captures true cortisol patterns? Are these tests really necessary in the beginning for all patients? I don’t think so. One of Coach Davis and my favorite sayings is, “Why pay to watch chaos?”
I get a very detailed health history, run serum testing before the first office visit, and then a battery of in-office testing upon arrival. We then begin to unravel what is going on. We put together the pieces and also start to identify if any pieces are missing, and then we talk about the financials, as well as pros and cons of that testing. Then we do something! And that is the most important aspect. We focus on the fundamentals, and if or when we get hung up or need more information, we order it.
Yes, paying for your health can be expensive. No, your insurance is not going to cover protein powder or magnesium. Yes, they should. But what are you going to do about? Wait for the system to change? Good luck.
Finally, just some food for thought… maybe the reason we are in this predicament is that we don’t see the cost. As Dr. Bob Rakowski says, “People who pay, pay attention.” And right now, the vast majority of our country is not paying attention to how they feel, how they live, how they think, and how they eat.
It changes with you. Today. Right now.
*If I wasn’t worried about finances with a client and the need presented itself this is the battery of testing I would order to get as many pieces of the puzzle as possible.
Full Blood Panel – $200 to 250
SIBO Breathe Test – $199.74
GI Pathogen Stool Test – $275
Viral Panel – $225
Urine Hormone Testing – $270
Mapping The Female Cycle and Urine Hormone Testing – $450
Organic Acid Testing – $395
Food Immunoreactivity Testing (Cyrex Array 3,4, and 10) – $550 and $795
Genetic Testing – $199