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Health Insurance Off the Grid

Health Insurance Off the Grid

A Wonderful Way To Use Alternative Medicine and Save Money on Insurance with the New Health Savings Account (HSA)

Daryl Kulak

Second Edition


Health Insurance Off the Grid

I dedicate this book to my late mother-in-law, Katie Oakley, who through her illness, suffering and treatment was able to show me the problems with our Western medical system and insurance.


Health Insurance Off the Grid Table of Contents







We Hate Our Health Insurers


Doctors on Strike?


Americans Go Uninsured When They Go Unemployed


Health Insurance Rates Rise Dramatically


Comparing the Inflation Rate to Increases in Health Insurance Costs


Medical Doctors are “Opting Out”


All This Money Isn’t Buying Better Care


Preventive Care Still Isn’t Part of the Health Insurance Picture


Controlled Studies Give Us Inconclusive Results


Our Leaders Aren’t Even Asking the Right Questions


Druggies For Life


Antibiotics Are Bringing Back the Plagues!


The Right Drug in the Right Dosage Kills 100,000 a Year










Fixing Healthcare Nationally


Fixing Healthcare Personally






















Health Insurance Off the Grid



































Choose a Caring MD


Home Remedies For the Little Things




Definition of Holistic Health


Accept Responsibility for Your Own Health


Safest, Cheapest Appropriate Remedy First


Do Your Own Health Research


Acknowledge Mind-Body-Spirit Interactions


Be Open-Minded


Emphasize Prevention


Understanding the Difference Between Healing and Curing














Holistic Practices





Health Insurance Off the Grid

Naturopathic System


Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) System


Ayurvedic System


Structural System


Energetic System


Western Medical System




Evaluating Practitioners as a Christian


Differences Between Religion and Spirituality


Mind and Body – Really Separate?
























Health Insurance Off the Grid


deductible – the minimum threshold payment that must be made by the enrollee each year before the plan begins to make payments

co-insurance – a payment sharing arrangement between the insurance company and patient, usually a percentage (20%) paid by the patient after the deductible has been reached

co-payment – a payment sharing arrangement between the insurance company and patient, usually a certain dollar amount ($25) per visit whether or not the deductible has been reached

office visit rider – addition to premium for primary care office setting that involves examination of, or education and discussion with, the patient

premium – amount of money that is paid to a health plan by an enrollee (or employer) in exchange for providing healthcare benefits (and claims processing)

(from The Managed Health Care Dictionary, 2nd Edition – Richard Rognehaugh (Aspen, 1998))


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Introduction – The State of Healthcare in America

The Problems

The “state of healthcare in America” today is weak. We are headed in the wrong direction, and we are paying too much for diminishing results.

Using the phrase “American healthcare crisis” is cliché by now. We have a crisis, there is no doubt. The signs are all around us.

We Hate Our Health Insurers The acronym HMO has become one of the hated symbols of American life. Health maintenance organizations routinely deny care, pressure doctors into providing insufficient treatment, and enrage their “clients.” Federal law prevents most people from suing their HMOs, no matter how egregious the action.

Doctors on Strike? For the first time in history, medical doctors are holding statewide strikes, like those in West Virginia in January, 2003. Many doctors are quitting due to high malpractice insurance premiums, which often exceed $100,000, according to the Inc. magazine article in December 2003 entitled “The Worst Business in America.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Americans Go Uninsured When They Go Unemployed One out of seven Americans lives without health insurance (Statistical Abstract of the US 2002). Many of these are families where the sole wage-earner has recently lost a job and the family cannot afford COBRA coverage, or someone has a chronic disease (pre-existing condition).

I met a self-employed young woman recently who has been separated from her husband for three years, but they’ve agreed to stay married so she can continue to get health insurance under his employer’s plan.

Health Insurance Costs Rise Dramatically Health insurance premiums for the self-employed have risen 6- 15% every year for the past five years, effectively doubling in that time. The inflation rate for all other products and services has held steady at under 4%. That means insurance premiums have risen at a rate almost 400% that of inflation. HMOs, which were created to reduce costs, have seemed to produce the opposite effect.


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Comparing Inflation to Health Insurance


National Inflation Rate

Health Benefit Costs
















Source of Inflation Rate: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2003

Source of Health Benefit Costs: Mercer/Foster Higgins National Survey,


NOTE: The “health benefit costs” shown above are the increases to rates to the employers. For example, in 2002, employer health costs rose 14.7%, but the costs passed on to employees in the form of higher monthly premiums, higher deductibles and higher co-payments generated much higher costs for employees, up to 20% in many cases.

Employers are drastically reducing the health benefits they provide to their employees every year, trying to find ways to limit the effects of the premium increases. They use doughnut hole health insurance policies, which offer full coverage up to a set amount (say $1,000) then no coverage up to a second limit (say $2,500), then partial coverage again after that second limit is reached.

The idea was to have employees conserve their coverage instead of wasting trips to the doctor for trivial things.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

The actual result has been that employees try to “hoard” the initial amount, postponing doctor visits until a health problem becomes acute and hard to reverse.

Strikes at grocery chains in California in 2003 and 2004 have had one major issue at stake – who’s going to pay the employee’s health insurance premiums?

Wal-Mart has become the largest company in the world by selling goods at the lowest possible prices. One way they’ve achieved this has been to maintain a non-union shop to keep wages low, and to make the employee’s cost of health insurance so high that many Wal-Mart employees cannot afford to even enroll.

Medical Doctors are “Opting Out” Some doctors are opting out of the health insurance world. (Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2003)

By opting out, I mean doctors who refuse all patients who wish to use health insurance of any kind.

By refusing all forms of insurance, the doctors can operate a clinic with two adminstrators instead of six. Fewer forms to fill out, no fighting with insurers about claims.

The doctors charge the patients a reasonable amount directly, paid at the time of service, which reflects their much-reduced overhead, in many cases down to $50-70 per doctor visit. As


Health Insurance Off the Grid

you can imagine, patients who do not have health insurance happily pay such reasonable rates.

All This Money Isn’t Buying Better Care Although America pays much more than other countries for healthcare, it is not the healthiest country. America pays double the amount per capita on healthcare versus Britain, Germany or Japan. That’s right, I said double.

It is hard to measure a nation’s “wellness,” so economists tend to look at life expectancy and infant mortality. However imperfect those measurements might be, they are some indication of our health.

An American’s life expectancy is 72 years, lower than many other Western nations (Germany is 73, Canada is 75, Japan is 77). Infant mortality is also no lower than other countries. We are not getting value for our money.

Imagine buying a personal computer, then finding out that your friend bought a computer that was a little better but cost half what you paid!

Additionally, Americans get sicker each year. Incidence of chronic diseases and conditions increase each year: diabetes, autism, ADD/ADHD, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, alcoholism, migraine headaches, obesity, osteoporosis, hepatitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and of course cancer and heart disease.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute stated in 2002 that new lung cancer victims are increasing 1.2% per year, melanoma 4%, prostate cancer 2.2%, and colorectal cancer 3% (statistics from 1996 to 2002). Are we on the road to curing cancer once people get it? Possibly, but we are far from understanding how to prevent it!

Preventive Care Still Isn’t Part of the Health Insurance Picture In American healthcare, we focus our efforts on curing diseases once they’ve occurred, rather than preventing them.

The preventive information we receive from Western medical doctors is often general and sometimes unsound. For skin cancer, the advice has been to stay out of the sun, but that has been proven at least partially incorrect (Journal of the National Cancer Institute report 2002). Similarly, advice about low fat diets has either proven wrong or people have not followed their doctors’ advice, because obesity is now a problem for 60% of adults and an unprecedented 30% of children (National Institutes of Health Website).

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Indian ayurveda and other systems are ruled out of American healthcare and insurance, even though their systems have been proven to work over thousands of years and incorporate many preventive measures into the overall practice of healthcare. This is not even mentioning widespread practices like massage


Health Insurance Off the Grid

therapy, fitness training, yoga and nutrition that are either completely left out of health insurance coverage or are only used under insurance to correct a problem, not to prevent a problem.

Controlled Studies Give Us Inconclusive Results Western medicine uses controlled studies as its basis for what works and what doesn’t. A controlled study is one where classically-trained scientists or doctors are in charge, activities are meticulously documented, control groups are used (given placebo treatments like sugar pills) and the results are published in a recognized, peer-reviewed journal (like the Journal of the American Medical Association). And yet, controlled scientific studies give us confusing results, year after year.

Drugs that initially seem effective are later proven totally useless.

Arthroscopic knee surgery is proven in a controlled study to be no better for its patients than a “fake surgery” where doctors put the patient under anesthesia and then pretend to operate.

Food and herb studies are no better. According to controlled studies, coffee is bad for us, then good, then bad again. Salt causes hypertension, then it doesn’t. Eggs have cholesterol, so we should avoid them, then they still have cholesterol, but we should eat them without worry. Tomatoes need to be raw to give us the most health benefit, then cooked, then raw. Butter is worse than margarine, then better, then worse. Vegetarians live


Health Insurance Off the Grid

long, healthy lives, then we find out that they die years earlier than meat-eaters. We determine unequivocally that a high fat, low fiber diet causes heart disease, yet that is exactly what the French eat and their rate of heart disease and cancer is the second lowest in the world (to Japan).

Our Leaders Aren’t Asking the Right Questions In this year’s presidential campaign, pollsters are asking people about their biggest concerns.

Number four

Number three --- national security

Number two Number one

--- the war in Iraq

--- stagnant economy --- healthcare

Source: New Hampshire Democratic primary exit polls – reported by National Public Radio – January 28, 2004

Healthcare is number one on people’s minds.

Political candidates say they can give us solutions to pay for the massive healthcare bills we are ringing up as a nation.

Solutions to bringing down the cost of healthcare range widely. Some propose to tweak the current system one way or another, resulting in billions of dollars in savings, we’re told.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Others propose a “single payer” system, similar to Canada’s socialized medicine program.

One solution is called the “group doctor visit” where three to seven patients visit the doctor at the same time, allowing the doctor to charge only a fraction to each patient. "I think it's the future of medicine," says Ed Noffsinger, PhD, father of the DIGMA (Drop-In Group Medical Appointment). In an initial survey, forty per cent of patients surveyed said they would never, ever use such an appointment format. When trying to fix a broken system with band-aid solutions, we tend to try even the most ridiculous solutions in hopes that we can revive what is already lost.

The problem is it costs so much to see a doctor for a seven- minute visit. The doctor has the cost of the health insurance paperwork, malpractice insurance premiums and the extremely expensive and dangerous drugs, equipment and procedures at his disposal. It costs a lot for these reasons, not because the doctor is trying to “rip off” their patients. It just costs a lot.

Is the question “How will we pay for this healthcare?” or “Why is healthcare so expensive?”


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Druggies For Life Many people have accepted that they will have to take pharmaceutical drugs for the rest of their lives. Diabetics accept that they will have to inject insulin. People with high blood pressure accept that they will take drugs to prevent heart attacks. These drugs do not help reverse the conditions they treat. The cost of these “everlasting drugs” goes to increase health insurance premiums for all payers.

Antibiotics Are Bringing Back the Plagues! Hmm, sounds like a headline from a supermarket tabloid! Strange but true, unfortunately.

Overuse of antibiotics in North America has contributed to what scientists call “super-germs,” which can live through any antibiotic treatment. Doctors overprescribe antibiotics and other drugs. By overusing antibiotics, we are creating an environment friendly towards the plagues of the Middle Ages, where a specific illness was allowed to roam freely from person to person, town to town, nation to nation. We can see the start of this with the SARS epidemic in Asia and Canada, the re- emergence of hepatitis, and the dramatic increase of staph infections in hospitals. Also implicated in this spread of resistant bacteria are the best-selling anti-bacterial soaps, which encourage the spread of supergerms in the home, office and hospital.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

The Right Drug in the Right Dosage Kills 100,000 a Year One hundred thousand patients die every year in America from receiving the right prescribed drug in the right dose at the right time. This is called iatrogenesis and it is the fifth leading cause of death in America ( Website).

Yet, we sanctimoniously ban ephedra, which has been tangentially linked to 155 deaths? (CNN news story, January


Who’s to Blame?

Don’t Blame Your Doctor

Don’t Blame the Insurance Company

Don’t Blame the Government

Don’t Blame the HMOs

Wouldn’t That Look Great on a Protest Sign?

Protesting in front of insurance company offices asking them to lower premium rates won’t work. Insurance premiums are based on the services insurance companies have to pay for, and those services are very expensive and are used often. Competition between insurance companies keeps insurance


Health Insurance Off the Grid

premiums as low as they can be, believe it or not. Insurance companies are scrutinized for anti-trust violations, so if any price cooperation is occuring between insurance companies, it is exposed by government anti-trust agencies, the press or the public.

Protesting in front of doctors’ offices asking them to accept lower fees won’t work. Doctors are making much less money than they were ten years ago, due to HMO cost-cutting and increased competition from holistic practitioners like chiropractors. Producing documentation in compliance with health insurers, malpractice insurers and HMOs has created a tremendous bureaucracy in every Western medical doctor’s office. Doctors who opt out of taking health insurance patients say they can save 80% of their overhead with that single step, passing on the savings to their direct-bill patients.

Protesting in front of drug companies asking them to switch to safer, cheaper herbs won’t work. Drug companies work for years to produce a single drug, which then must be sold at a very high profit for many years to reimburse the research and testing. Herbs are not patentable, so drug companies would be at a disadvantage to existing supplement companies, who are efficient and effective at sourcing, harvesting, distributing and selling herbs and vitamins.

Protesting in front of the US Capitol asking them to pass laws to limit the malpractice premiums for Western doctors won’t work. Malpractice premiums reflect competition between insurance companies, so they are as low as they can be, given


Health Insurance Off the Grid

the costs. The root problem is the level of danger in Western medical procedures, especially childbirth, anesthesia, surgery of all kinds, and pharmaceuticals. The litigious nature of the American society is obviously a root cause of high malpractice premiums as well, but that is not a topic I’m prepared to address in this book.

Protesting in front of HMO offices asking them to stay out of the business of making medical decisions won’t work. HMOs were built on the assumption that the HMOs would have power over which medical procedures would be used or not, so dismantling that fundamental assumption would immediately undo the HMO system, something no HMO would be inclined to do today or any other day.

It may seem that I’m defending HMOs, insurance and pharmaceutical companies. This is odd because I detest these companies as much as anybody. But what I’m trying to avoid is giving the impression to anyone that we can avoid our own personal responsibility by foisting it onto one of these easy targets.

We Have Met the Enemy and…D’Oh!

As Pogo sighed in the first Earth Day cartoon strip in 1971, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

It would be easy to blame people in power for the problems in healthcare, but, in the short term, it is unproductive. We must


Health Insurance Off the Grid

use our dollars and our votes to make a better America, but we need to stop our own destructive behavior before we will see changes anywhere else in the country.

Every time we’ve said “I pay so damn much for this insurance, it better cover everything little thing I need,” we’ve created the problem.

Every time we’ve sued a doctor because things didn’t turn out exactly the way we were expecting, we’ve created the problem.

Every time we’ve demanded the doctor give us a stronger prescription or a brand name drug rather than a generic, “just to be safe,” we’ve created the problem.

Every time we’ve accepted a doctor’s advice that “there’s nothing you can do to reverse this illness, so take this pill for the rest of your life,” we’ve created the problem.

Every time we’ve accepted an expensive surgical procedure or drug that was covered in our health plan instead of investigating a cheaper, safer alternative, we’ve created the problem.

Every year we’ve let our politicians get re-elected without solving the problem of the uninsured, we’ve created the problem.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Every time we’ve watched a drug commercial on television and then demanded that our doctor prescribe it for our children, we’ve created the problem.

Every time we’ve knowingly abused our own health through our diet, smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of exercise, emotional outbursts, bad posture, and laziness, we’ve created the problem.

If you want to blame someone, blame me. Blame us all.

The American thing to do is for each of us to take responsibility for this situation. We’ve created it together so let’s fix it together.

The difference between blaming and taking responsibility is that blaming looks backward, trying to find the “guilty party.” Taking responsibility looks forward to who needs to take action to fix this problem in the future.

There is one thing that will work. Each person must create a plan today that will work for themselves where they can afford the insurance premiums and get access to the care they need.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

What Should We Do?

Fixing Healthcare Nationally Every presidential candidate tells us they have the solution to our healthcare issues. The meekest solutions provide us with additional federal funding (taken from which budget, we are not told). The boldest plans give us copycat solutions taken from other countries where healthcare “really works,” usually Canada, Britain or Germany.

Something that stands out for me is that the politicians seem to be diligently answering the question “How do we pay for this mess?” while just as diligently avoiding the question “How did we get this mess?”

Healthcare is very, very expensive, and is outpacing inflation by a factor of four. Why? What are we doing wrong in healthcare that is causing our costs to rise so quickly and yet not be solving our problems in disease prevention or mortality? Where is our money going?

“Healthcare costs are outpacing inflation by a factor of four.”

The easy answer is to look for an Enron-style scapegoat, a greedy industrialist who is stealing the money for his own


Health Insurance Off the Grid

collection of jets, mansions and rare artwork. But I don’t believe that’s happening in this case.

I feel the problem with our healthcare system is systemic, meaning it is a problem with the system itself, not the people inside the system.

In order to prevent disease we need to have a focus on preventing disease. Our medical system is a “disease care system” instead of a “health care system.” Our doctors are well- trained to leap into action when they find a disease, but they seem to sputter when asked questions about prevention.

But a focus on disease is just one symptom of the national healthcare problem.

My instincts tell me we are far from any reasonable national solution on healthcare. We have run too far off the rails to be able to get back on track quickly. Like most people, I have strong opinions about what can work and what will not work, but that is not the focus of this book.

The problems I outlined at the beginning of this book need to be solved. But, until then, each of us needs to do what we can to create our own plan for health and wellness until we have reasonable, dramatically more effective solutions at the national level.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

The question I intend to answer in this book is “how can I create a plan for my family’s health without having to change the American healthcare system?”

This approach solves the problem at two levels. First, it means we each have a way to cope until we collectively understand how to fix our national system. Second, by virtue of us changing our own approach to healthcare, the national system itself will have to adapt to suit us, and it will be changing in a positive way.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” By changing your own approach to healthcare, you cannot help but change things at a national (and international) level.

NOTE: For a number of very rational suggestions on how to fix the national healthcare situation, please read the free newsletter called “The Radical Middle” at this Web address:

Fixing Healthcare Personally So, by choosing to change our own healthcare approach, we change the nation. In the next chapter, I explain how that is possible.

The hardest part of this change will be your own mindset. Using the individual tools I outline is easy; it is a matter of


Health Insurance Off the Grid

doing some calculations, making phone calls, meeting with certain experts, signing some papers.

But changing your own mindset towards your healthcare, health insurance and finances may be extremely difficult. You will face the “devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” problem in your own head.

Remember that the mindset shift is difficult. And try to see it from the perspective of the amount of money it can save you, and the greater health you’ll gain.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Health Off the Grid – Helping Health Insurance Serve You

I have created a healthcare approach that I call Health Off the Grid. This approach is a set of services available today that together can offer the peace-of-mind of an insurance policy with the ability to include holistic health services and flexibility to handle the ups and downs of everyday life.

In this chapter, I’ll describe the Health Off the Grid approach and all its parts. I’ll show you how it works and explain where you can get each type of service.

The Plan in Brief

Health Off the Grid is a set of tools that, when used together, create a powerful plan that, I believe, can satisfy many of the objectives that people wish for their healthcare today in America.

Why the name “Health Insurance Off the Grid?”

Living “off the grid” means that a person might be using wind turbines, solar cells, water wells and septic tanks to remove themselves from the necessity of any utilities like electricity, water and sewer. I’ve always respected these folks for their courage and self-reliance.

My approach to health insurance is similar to these amazing pioneers, although it requires much less courage! Just a different mindset towards insurance and some discipline to carry it out.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

I will summarize a plan for creating and maintaining health using the existing tools in the American healthcare system. I will explain each step and how it relates to decreasing your costs and benefiting your health.

Goals My goals in creating the Health Off The Grid plan are:

1. Reduce the total amount of money families pay for healthcare (including insurance premiums) by at least $2,000 per year.

2. Allow the family to pare down expenses when times get tough (wage earner loses a job) and bring them back again when the income returns.

3. Allow families to focus on the safest, most effective and cheapest remedies first, moving to more dangerous and expensive remedies only after the first ones do not work.

4. Allow for payment of an infinitely wide variety of healthcare treatments, including Chinese medicine, yoga, fitness training, herbs, reiki, and many others, while still retaining Western medical treatment for the times it is appropriate.

5. Create a system that works for all employment situations, especially the self-employed and unemployed.

6. Reduce the number of interactions (re: hassles) with health insurance companies and HMOs to a minimum.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

7. Reward families financially for practicing preventive healthcare.

8. Take the fear out of healthcare by creating overlapping and backup systems of healthcare financing.

9. Create a system that can be done by the client or delegated to a qualified financial planner.

I believe the Health Off The Grid system satisfies these goals, but you need to be the judge as you read the rest of this chapter.

Health Off the Grid --- Steps

1. Sign up for a high-deductible health insurance plan.

2. Create a Health Savings Account (HSA).

3. Create a Health Off The Grid Account (HOTG ACCOUNT).

4. Sign up for a health discount card, covering pharmacy, dental, vision, vitamins, herbs and alternative medicine practices.

5. Add a health insurance rider to your car insurance policy.

6. Create a monthly health spending plan.

7. Create a network of practitioners supporting your family’s health.

8. Save the rest.

9. Review your Health Off The Grid strategy with your family at least once a year.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Step 1 – High-Deductible Health Insurance – Be Secure Without Overpaying

We begin with the health insurance policy itself. Not to be too philosophical, but what is health insurance?? What is its purpose?

The nature of insurance is to cover the costs for an individual when those costs are so great that the individual would suffer great hardship if he had to pay them himself.

When a person’s house burns down, the cost of replacing the entire house might be out-of-reach for the individual, so the person buys house insurance and pays a small amount each month to insure that if the house burns down, the money will be there to replace it quickly.

When a person is involved in a car accident, the cost of replacing the car, plus personal injuries even liability if other people are hurt, could be out-of-reach. Again, the person purchases car insurance for this eventuality.

With health, though, we seem to take a different approach. Yes, we expect the health insurance to be there for the big stuff:

when we break our leg, fall out a window, or get cancer. But we also seem to expect that it should cover all medical services, no


Health Insurance Off the Grid

matter how small. When we visit the doctor because we have the sniffles, we want health insurance to pay. When we use one $90 bottle of prescription medication, we funnel the cost through health insurance.

Our current mindset with health insurance is unworkable. It is what has created the monster that we have today in the American medical system.

Sky-high costs.

Idiotic bureaucracy.

Unhappiness in doctors and patients alike.

Each of us must rethink our approach to healthcare.

If we took our “health insurance approach” with house insurance, we would be buying house insurance to cover every bit of maintenance from window-cleaning to installing a new phone line to repainting a wall in the bedroom. Insurance companies would be trying to decide whether you really needed that extra phone line or not, whether your windows were really too dirty to look through. Can you imagine??

If we did it with car insurance, it would be like expecting insurance to cover gasoline and oil changes, brake jobs and mufflers. You’d have to wait several hours at the gas station each time to give the insurance adjustor time to decide whether


Health Insurance Off the Grid

you really deserved another tank of gas because you had used so much already that month. Can you imagine??

Immense cost, confusion and delays are what we would encounter if we expected these things from our house or car insurance. And yet, there’s no need to imagine because we have exactly that in American health insurance.

The High-Deductible Response to Insanity

The way for you and your family to “opt out” of this madness is

to sign up for a high-deductible health insurance policy.

A deductible is the initial amount each year that the client is

responsible for. After the deductible is satisfied (paid by the client), the insurance company begins to pay claims.

Insurance companies offer steep discounts for these types of high-deductible policies. High deductibles lower the overhead costs so much that health insurers will cut premiums for high deductible policies by thousands of dollars per year.

How high is a high deductible? There is an optimal deductible. It is $2,500. This deductible is magical. Let me explain why.

If you have a bad health year and spend the entire $2,500

deductible yourself every year of your life, you will still be

ahead because you’ve been paying premiums that are so much lower. Let me state that in another way. You save so much on


Health Insurance Off the Grid

what you pay in monthly premiums that even if you and your family were so sick year-after-year that you had to use your entire deductible every year, you’d still save money over a typical low-deductible policy.

The reason health insurers can make these high-deductible premiums so low is because you are saving them the overhead of having to go through the approval process for the claims up to the $2,500 deductible. It should be less and it is!

This is a major key to the entire Health Off The Grid plan, so I hope you understand what I’m saying here. Let’s use a quick example.

For a low-deductible health insurance policy, you might pay $800 per month for a family of three. By switching to a high- deductible policy ($2,500), you will likely pay about $300. The savings are $500 per month. Multiple that by twelve months in the year, and you’ve saved $6,000 each year. Remember, your deductible was $2,500. So if you spend the entire deductible every year for the rest of your life, you’ll still save $3,500 every year. Put that into a mutual fund, with 4% return, and you’ve accumulated over $42,000 in ten years. Just for changing the deductible on your insurance policy!

To really get the picture of what a high-deductible policy will do for you, let’s review some detailed examples on the following pages.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

NOTE: The insurance costs are estimated and could vary greatly from one insurer to another. Please use the figures for comparisons only.

Compare the Plans










Office visit rider


not included

Prescription drug rider


not included




Monthly premium (for family of three):



The plan in the left-hand-column is a typical health insurance policy, which we call low-deductible.

The plan in the right-hand-column represents a high-deductible policy where we’ve refused all add-ons and riders. This is the type of policy I’m recommending in this book.

The monthly difference in premiums between the low- deductible and high-deductible plans is $786 ($1086 - $300).

Multiple that by twelve months in the year, and you’ve saved



Health Insurance Off the Grid

On the downside, you have a higher-deductible in the right column, $2,400 higher. The right-hand-column also refuses the prescription drug rider taken on the left.

In the tables below, let’s see what happens when your family has a good healthy year and also in a year where there is a lot of illness.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Year 1 Scenario – No Big Illnesses - $900 spent










Prescription costs



Premiums paid:



Total paid:



In Year 1, we had no big illnesses in this family. We spent $750 on healthcare services and $150 on prescriptions. Not much, just a few doctor visits and a couple of pharmaceuticals. For the right-hand column, we had to pay that amount totally out-of- pocket. Bummer!!

With the left-hand-column, everything except $100 was covered. Well, we had to kick in for the prescriptions, because we didn’t meet our prescription rider deductible of $250.

Great, right?? Well, the catch is that those nasty premium payments were mounting up every month, we had to pay $13,032 in monthly premiums in the left-hand-column.

Overall, the right-hand column (High-Deductible) saves us a total of $8,782 in a healthy year.


Health Insurance Off the Grid

Year 2 Scenario – Family Member Ill $67,000 spent + $5,000 in prescriptions










Prescription costs



Premiums paid:



Total paid:



Year 2 wasn’t so kind to our family. One of our family members got really sick and was in the hospital for several weeks. Plus $5,000 of prescription medicine through the ordeal and recovery. Yikes!! Aren’t you glad you had health insurance??

Let’s compare the two plans again. The left-hand column covered all the costs except the $100 deductible. Wow, what a deal!! Well, there was one hitch. We had to pay $2,750 for the prescriptions, because our prescription drug rider had its own deductible, plus it had an upper limit, so we still got stuck with some of the cost.

The right-hand-column forced us to pay the entire $2,500 out- of-pocket before the insurance started to kick in. That was a big annoyance, but it sure was easier to deal with than $67,000!! The other bad thing was that we did not pay for a


Health Insurance Off the Grid

prescription rider in the right-hand-column, so we had to pay the entire $5,000 for prescriptions.

But the amazing thing happens when we look at the bottom line of each policy. Even though we had to pay that enormous deductible of $2,500 this year, we STILL SAVED MONEY using the right-hand-column.

Overall, the High-Deductible policy saved $3,882.


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Year 3 Scenario – Incorporate Holistic Health $6,500 spent on Holistic Health, $2,000 on Western Medicine










Prescription costs



Premiums paid:



Holistic health services:



Total paid:



In Year 3, our family decides to incorporate a whole set of holistic health services into their lives – yoga, herbs, meditation classes, energy healing – you name it.

It’s a pretty good year, the family has only $2,000 in Western medical expenses. No prescription drugs this time, because our family is using herbs and vitamins instead as much as possible.

Again, the right-hand-column comes out ahead. The high- deductible policy saves $7,532. Notice how the total of the high-deductible policy with holistic health services is still less than the low-deductible without those additional services.


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Here’s a thought:

Take that $7,532 that you save in health insurance and put it into a savings plan every

year and it will grow to become $154,000 in fifteen years (4% return).

What could you buy with



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How Much Do Most of Us Spend on Medical Expenses?

All this talk about family members getting sick begs the question – how often does that happen?

Luckily, we have statistics from to give us an idea of where the “typical year” will come in.

Keep in mind that this chart only shows Western medical expenses (doctor visits, prescriptions, hospital stays, etc.), not holistic services (vitamin pills, yoga classes, personal training sessions, etc.).

Money Spent on Medical Care Annually

Percentage of U.S. Population



$1 -$500


$501 - $1,000


$1,001 - $2,000


$2,001 - $5,000


$5,001 - $10,000


$10,001 - $25,000


$25,001 - $50,000


$50,001 - $100,000


$100,001 - And Up



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These statistics say to me that, in almost every year of my life, my costs will be below $1000. A few years might be higher than that, but the $67,000 example I used earlier would happen less than one percent of the time.

One percent means an average of one year in one hundred years.

Now let’s examine some additional things to think about when talking to your insurance agent about your high-deductible policy.

Policy Riders

There are two policy riders that you should consider removing. Riders are additions to a policy that add money to your premium.

The first is the prescription drug rider. The premiums for this rider can be quite costly and if you can possibly avoid it, you should. Obviously, if you are in a situation where you must take prescription drugs regularly to treat a chronic problem, you may not be able to follow my advice.

But if you can take more of a holistic approach to your family’s healthcare, you can remove the prescription drug rider and


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substitute holistic remedies (homeopathy, herbs, vitamins, aromatherapy, etc.) that are much cheaper and safer.

The prescription drug rider is usually a bad deal for consumers. It often has a deductible associated with it, perhaps $250. Then it has an upper limit on what you can use per year, often $2,500. So the prescription drug rider gives you a total of $2,250 coverage in a given year. My guess is that even if you used the entire coverage every year, you would still be barely ahead of the game.

The second policy rider is usually called the doctor visit rider. Again, if you decide in your monthly spending plan that you wish to see a Western MD regularly, you will probably want to keep this rider. But my suggestion is that you consider switching to a holistic practitioner (naturopathic doctor, chiropractor, ayurvedic doctor, etc.) as your health advisor. If you take my advice, you’ll want to remove this rider from your policy.

Discounts on Out-of-Pocket Expenses

When you have any type of health insurance (low-deductible or high-deductible) you get discounts on Western medical services based on what the insurance company negotiated with the doctor’s group. These are often substantial, perhaps 30-50%.

When I first shifted to a high-deductible policy years ago, I was shocked when I received the bill. Shocked in a good way! The doctor visit was shown as $150, with some other costs for


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various tests they had done. Then beside each figure for the “regular customer” they had my “discounted rate.” I thought, “Wow, who am I to deserve this discount?” But since I had run the cost through my health insurer (they paid 0% of it, of course) I got their discounted rate. So, even though I had to pay for my entire doctor visit and for all the tests (I hadn’t hit my yearly deductible yet) I still got amazing discounts just for being under the insurer’s umbrella.

These discounts apply to the services and products that you pay for (because you haven’t hit your deductible for the year yet) but that would have been eligible for insurance had you reached your deductible. Your insurance company has negotiated steep discounts with the providers (doctors, hospitals, etc. in your network) and you will receive those discounts if you file the claim with your health insurance company, no matter whether you’ve reached your deductible or not.


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Step 2 – Health Savings Account (HSA) – Cover Small Expenses and Save on Taxes

The Health Savings Account (HSA) was created as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, but its predecessor, the Medical Savings Account (MSA) existed in a slightly different form several years before that. Since the MSA was considered an experiment by the federal legislators, some individuals shied away from it until it was made permanent in late 2003. There is no longer any reason to ignore the benefits of the HSA.

An HSA is a special type of Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

An IRA is an account where an individual may deposit a few thousand dollars each year, deduct that amount off their current year tax return, and then watch the money grow without taxes being applied each year thereafter. After the money is withdrawn at the time of retirement, tax is applied. If a person has retired, their income level would be lower and therefore the tax rate would be less than if they had been taxed all those years earlier. IRAs are a great deal for retirement savings.

An HSA may be used exactly the same way, but there is one change that makes the HSA even more valuable to you.


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An HSA is an account where the individual may deposit money and deduct that deposit from that year’s tax return. However, the individual may then withdraw money from the HSA at any time, as long as the withdrawal is to pay for a “valid” medical expense.

The IRS decides what a valid medical expense is. Here is a partial list:

co-payments for doctor visits

insurance premiums

legal abortions


Alcoholic Anonymous expenses (transportation, etc.)


Christian Science practitioner

dental treatment

glasses and contacts

lab fees


weight loss programs


For a complete list, you may visit the IRS Website and search for Publication 502, which lists all the medical expenses that the IRS views as “valid” for tax deduction.


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Almost all these services must be done at the direction of a Medical Doctor (MD or DO) in order to be considered valid withdrawals from a Health Savings Account.

Be Your Own Insurance Company – For the Small Stuff

Essentially, an HSA allows you to be your own insurance company for small expenses that fall under your deductible. And being your own insurance company means avoiding the overhead of forms processing through a real insurance company, which means saving you a lot of money.

You cannot be your own insurance company for large amounts. An extended hospital stay could cost $50,000, which very few of us could afford out-of-pocket. That is why we have the safety net of the high-deductible insurance policy. But for smaller amounts, we can do it ourselves safely.

You must decide how to invest your HSA. It must be specially designated as an HSA, but you may put it into a bank savings account, a money market account or a mutual fund. I suggest either a money market account or a “very safe” mutual fund, one that specializes in government bonds, for instance. You do not want an account that gyrates up and down with the stock market, because your money might not be there when you need it most. But you also do not want the ultra-low interest generated by a regular bank savings account, so choose something in between.


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The only company that can set up an HSA for you is a company designated by the IRS as an HSA custodian. Banks, insurance agents and financial planners are quickly becoming qualified as HSA custodians, so check with your favorite institution to see if they can set it up for you.

Use, Snooze, but You Won’t Lose It

HSAs can be rolled over from year to year. There is no “use it or lose it” with HSAs. Whatever you don’t use in the first year is rolled over completely (with interest!) into the second year, so if your health is good, you are rewarded with increased savings each year! In the second year, you can put more money into the HSA, and get another tax break. You can also just sit on the money that’s already in it without adding anything.

If when you retire, you have built up extra money each year in your HSA, well, you now have another IRA that you hadn’t counted on! Upon retirement age, you may begin drawing the money out just like any other Traditional IRA. Taxes will be charged upon withdrawal, but since you are retired, your income level is probably much lower than when you were working, so the tax rate will be lower.

An HSA is only available to an "eligible individual." An eligible individual is one who:

is covered under a high-deductible health insurance policy


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is not entitled to benefits under Medicare (generally, has not yet reached age 65)

is not covered by some other health insurance policy that is low-deductible

may not be claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return

This means you can be self-employed, unemployed or employed, as long as you have only one health insurance policy (through yourself or your company) that has a high-deductible.

The lowest “high deductible” you could have and still get an HSA is $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a family. But my advice is to stick with the $2,500 deductible, because that is when the numbers are all working for you, not against you. I feel $1,000 is still too low.

Where to Get It?

Beginning January 1, 2004 you can establish an HSA with a qualified HSA trustee or custodian, in much the same way that you establish IRAs with qualified IRA trustees or custodians. No permission from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is necessary to establish an HSA. An eligible individual who is an employee may establish an HSA with or without involvement of the employer. Any bank, financial planner or insurance agent can likely help you set up an HSA. Since they are so new, you may have to make a few calls, but don’t despair, you’ll find one in your area.


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I can state for certain that any State Farm insurance agent will offer the services of a high-deductible health insurance policy and an HSA. State Farm provides my wife and me with our insurance and HSA, through Ohio agent Larry Buttermore (614-882-3276). I am also aware that some Raymond James offices offer this combination of insurance and HSA, including Logan Financial Group in Ohio (614-442-0214). And, independent insurance agents and financial planners may also be able to help you, including Mica Schober at the Poetry of Money in Ohio (614-619-0404).

Any insurance company or any bank can be an HSA trustee or custodian. That doesn’t mean they all are, but they can apply for that title. Also, any agent or planner already approved by the IRS to be a trustee or custodian of IRAs or Archer MSAs is automatically approved to be an HSA trustee or custodian.

The financial planner or insurance agent setting up your HSA will ask you for proof that you are covered by a health plan that meets all of the requirements of an “high-deductible” health insurance policy. The easiest way to set up your HSA is to do it with the same company that sets up your health insurance policy.

HSA Details, Details, Details

What about contributing money into your HSA? For an HSA established by an employee of a company, the employee, the company or both may contribute to the HSA. For an HSA


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established by a self-employed (or even unemployed) individual, the individual may contribute to the HSA. Family members may also make contributions to an HSA on behalf of another family member.

The maximum contributions to an HSA for each year can be 100% of the annual health insurance deductible ($2,500) but not more than $2,600 for an individual (single person policy), whichever is less.

For families with a high-deductible policy, the maximum is the lesser of 100% of the annual deductible under the high- deductible health plan (HDHP) but not more than $5,150.

For people between ages 55 and 65, the HSA contribution limit is increased by $500 in calendar year 2004. Starting in 2005, this catch-up amount will increase in $100 increments annually, until it reaches $1,000 in calendar year 2009.

After an individual has attained age 65 (Medicare eligibility age), contributions, including catch-up contributions, cannot be made to an individual's HSA.

Your contributions to your HSA are deductible whether or not you itemize on your tax return. However, you cannot duplicate these same medical expenses in other areas of your tax return if they were paid from your HSA.

Employer contributions to the employee's HSA are treated as employer-provided coverage for medical expenses under an


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accident or health plan and are excluded from the employee's gross income. The employer contributions are not subject to withholding from wages for income tax or subject to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), or the Railroad Retirement Tax Act. Of course, the employee cannot deduct employer contributions on his or her federal income tax return as HSA contributions.

You can contribute to your HSA however you’d like. My wife and I make our contributions in a lump sum at the beginning of each year, but you could contribute monthly, twice-monthly, whatever way you’d like. In fact, like an IRA, you can contribute to last year’s HSA until April 15 of the following year.

If you currently have an MSA, I suggest you “roll it over” into an HSA. HSAs have higher limits and fewer restrictions than MSAs. However, if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) with your employer, you cannot roll that into an HSA. The rollover amount does not contribute to your yearly limit.

No one is going to be looking over your shoulder to make sure the withdrawals you make from your HSA are for valid medical services. However, when it comes to tax time, the IRS will be looking at those withdrawals and any that cannot be accounted for will be investigated, just like any other tax deduction. I have no information nor reason to believe that owning an HSA will draw a “red flag” from the IRS for a tax audit. HSAs will


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become so popular that I believe this is a very unlikely scenario, unless you abuse your HSA, of course.

Try to find a provider who offers a debit card as the way to withdraw money from your HSA. This will provide an easy method of documentation for every transaction. If you cannot find one with a debit card, you can make your withdrawals using checks and keep the records yourself.

As an employee of a company, you’ll see your employer’s contributions into the HSA on your W-2 at the end of the year.

Also, HSAs are not subject to COBRA continuation coverage requirements. That means your employer doesn’t have to offer the HSA as part of the COBRA package when you leave the company (or are laid off, etc.)

I hope this chapter hasn’t been too technical. I’ve tried to outline the details of an HSA in language easy to understand. I’d just like to say that HSAs are a blessing to the self- employed person, and that anyone who can get one should surely do it.


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Step 3 – Health Off The Grid Account (HOTG ACCOUNT) – Money to Pay for Holistic Health Services

A Health Off The Grid Account (HOTG ACCOUNT) is my own invention. The Health Savings Account (HSA) is too currently too restrictive for the health practices I recommend in this book, so you’ll need another account for those expenses.

An HOTG ACCOUNT is nothing more than a bank savings account, money market account or mutual fund. It has no federal government protection, it is not tax deductible and it has no restrictions on the types of services you can withdraw to use.

The amount you decide to deposit into your HOTG ACCOUNT will depend on your decisions later in this book on the types of health services you wish to use. If you think you will use mostly holistic health services, you will deposit most of your money into the HOTG ACCOUNT, and less money into the HSA. If you think you will use Western medicine more than holistic medicine, deposit most of your money into the HSA, and only a little into the HOTG ACCOUNT.

Use the money in this account to pay for holistic health services and products, including but not limited to:

Traditional Chinese Medicine

ayurvedic medicine (from India)

yoga classes

tai chi classes


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martial arts classes

fitness trainers

herbs and vitamins



health books

massage therapy

color, light and sound therapy



Bach flower essences

Feldenkrais Method

Alexander Technique

energy work



Can You Be Disciplined? Remember, there are no restrictions on what you can use this money for. And that might cause you a problem! If you are a person who likes to spend money, you may feel entitled to dip into your HOTG ACCOUNT for things unrelated to healthcare.

There are two solutions to this dilemma. The first is to resist the urge. The second is to put the account in control of someone else, and ask them to approve the expenses before they allow the money to be spent. It may be possible to create a relationship with a financial planner who is willing to do this administration for you. Expect to pay for this service, and map


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out exactly what you want to allow and what you want ruled out.

I expect as the Health Off The Grid plan becomes more popular, financial planners will create services to cater to clients who want this type of help with their HOTG ACCOUNTs.


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Step 4 – Health Discount Card – Reduce the Costs of Dental, Vitamins and Vision

The first three steps help you plan and pay for medical expenses of all types, but they do not really address other concerns, like dental and vision coverage.

For these types of coverage, a corporate employee may have an option for insurance coverage. But a self-employed individual or small business employee may have no such insurance coverage.

The best I can suggest here is to use a health discount card, like the Healthy Advantage card from American Health Advantage ( The card costs $120 per year.

Dental and Vision

The Healthy Advantage card offers discounts on dental and vision services and products, including:



regular cleanings (50% off)


fillings (15% off)


crowns and bridges (15%)


orthodontics (15% off)


o glasses and contacts (10-60% off)


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Vitamins, Herbs, Drugs, Hearing Aids, Holistic Services

This particular discount program also offer discounts on prescription drugs (up to 50%), vitamins and herbs (up to 50%), hearing aids (up to 50%) and certain holistic health services like acupuncture, reflexology and massage (up to 30%).

This discount program really works. It isn’t some ripoff game, it’s real. My wife and I use it all the time, especially for our dental work. You need to stick to dentists, eyewear stores, and holistic practitioners who are “in the network,” but that isn’t very hard, since there are thousands of practitioners in this network. If you are in or near a major city in the US, you won’t have a problem finding someone. Even if you live in a more remote area, you will still have at least some choice of practitioners and stores.

Discounts like these are obviously nothing close to what a low deductible insurance policy would offer, but that kind of insurance is not affordable for the self-employed. So the discount program is actually the only alternative for those groups, and, as such, it does save money. With two people getting dental cleanings every six months, a family will easily recover the cost of the discount card.

Be careful about the alternative practitioners listed for the health discount card. Essentially, when they signed up to belong to the network, they agreed to offer lower priced services to anyone who comes in with the card, usually 30-50% off. I have run into some alternative practitioners who were regretting this


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agreement, and tried to shift me to other services or basically forget about the discount that was due to me. I do not this think is representative of the majority of alternative practitioners in the network, but it is something you must watch out for and demand your due if the situation arises.

The Decline of Discount Cards

There is a significant problem with the discount programs. In the last few years, there have been more and more discount programs, but there have been fewer and fewer providers who belong to the programs. Make sure you have a look at the list of providers in the discount program before you agree to join. For instance, in Westerville, Ohio, the discount program I belong to has lost every single dentist in our town. When you think about it from the dentist’s perspective, it is only a matter of time before a dentist will get tired of offering customers a large discount on all services. When they begin to fill their practice sufficiently, they are very likely to drop out of the discount program.

Discount programs are still worthwhile, just make sure the network covers enough of your area that will ensure it’s usable for you and your family.


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Step 5 – Car Insurance Rider – Get Your Deductibles Paid For

A much overlooked health benefit actually hides in car

insurance policies. High deductible insurance policies are the scariest in the face of a bad car accident, where one or more family members might need extensive Western medical help in an emergency situation. Injuries could be severe and costs could add up very quickly.

Fortunately, many car insurance policies have a health insurance rider available.

My advice is – TAKE IT!

This is an amazing value for people like us.

Here’s how it works.

If you require health insurance coverage resulting from a car

accident, the insurance company who supplies your car insurance will cover your health insurance deductibles up to a maximum set by you, at which point your health insurer will take over.

Let me rephrase this. If you get in a car accident, you will not pay your health insurance deductible ($2,500 as I’ve suggested), instead, your car insurance company will pay it for you.


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But this occurs only if you have the health insurance rider. The important factor is to make sure your health insurance rider on your car insurance matches or exceeds your deductible on your health insurance policy. If it does not, you will still be responsible for the shortfall.

The cost of this rider is low, somewhere between $5 and $15 per year for a family’s vehicles. Please make sure you have this coverage.


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Step 6 – Network of Practitioners – Find Practitioners You Can Trust

The healthcare plan documented in this book can work if you stay completely in the Western medical world. But I do not recommend that.

First, let’s examine the costs of using Western medicine exclusively.

Remember, now that you’re in “high-deductible world,” you will be comparing the true cost of Western medicine to the cost of other medical alternatives.

A Western medical

doctor visit may cost $100 for a 7 minute visit, assuming you haven’t yet met your insurance deductible.

A naturopath is a holistic health

practitioner who usually uses herbs, vitamins, homeopathic remedies,

hypnosis, meditation and other

practices to treat patients. A naturopath

is not licensed by a state medical board

(except in Washington state, California

and a few other Western states).

I’ll explain naturopathy more in the section “Six Easy Systems!”

An initial consultation

to a naturopathic

doctor may cost $90 for 90 minutes. Subsequent visits may

cost $50 for a 30- minute appointment. Insurance will not apply to these costs.


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Western MD - $14.28 per minute

Naturopath - $1.00 per minute

With this cost difference, this means the Western MD should be 14 times more likely to diagnosis your issue, solve your health problem, cure your disease and save your life.

First, let me explain why the costs difference is so huge. This is NOT a case of the MD gouging their customers. Don’t fall into that mental trap.

The MD has extremely high malpractice insurance premiums to pay each year, often exceeding $100,000!! A naturopath has much lower malpractice premiums, because their treatments are much safer and not invasive (like surgery).

An MD has to deal with HMOs and insurance providers, which boosts his overhead costs (admin staff, paperwork, etc.) to over 400% of the overhead a naturopath requires.

An MD is required by the American Medical Association (AMA) to attend years of training at an expensive medical college. A naturopath’s education may vary from several months to several years, but would not be as extensive or expensive as what the MD had to go through.


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The cost of the remedies the MD provides are extremely expensive. The drugs they offer come from pharmaceutical companies who must recoup their research and bureaucracy costs from the patients who use them. The surgical techniques offered by MDs are also extremely expensive, often running into tens of thousands of dollars.

Naturopaths take a different approach. Their remedies are almost completely non-patented natural remedies, like herbs, vitamins and homeopathics. They ask their patients to do certain exercises at home, or to use techniques like hypnosis or meditation to overcome health problems.

The High-Deductible Discount

If you have a high-deductible health insurance policy instead of no insurance at all, the picture changes. You can expect a 30- 50% discount on most services even for those services where you are paying the entire amount yourself because you haven’t used the yearly deductible yet. Just by having the service go through your insurance company (and the cost coming right back to you!) you will see significant discounts on Western medical services. This is a result of the negotiated plans between doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.

With a 30% discount, that 7 minute Western doctor visit will be $70. You’ve save $30 over the regular price, but, of course, you are still paying 10 times the cost of a naturopathic visit (comparing cost-per-minute).


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Western MDs also have it tough in other areas. They are afraid to try anything new, because of pressures from the malpractice insurance companies, HMOs and state medical boards. If a doctor tried a remedy that he thought was safer and more effective on a patient, and it produced some unexpected results, the patient could easily sue the doctor and win, and the health insurer could easily rule out paying for the procedure. In fact, MDs who do holistic health in addition to their regular practices must separate the visits. This means you might visit the MD for a physical exam, and pay for it through your health insurance. But if you wanted to consult with them on an herbal remedy, you would have to set up a separate appointment on a different day, and make sure that that second appointment was not connected to your previous insured appointment. This is true in many US states.

For more on holistically-minded MDs, refer to my book Doctors of the Future – Central Ohio MDs and DOs Who Use Alternative and Integrative Medicine (2004).

Put yourself in the shoes of the MD for a minute. You are expected by the HMOs and malpractice authorities to use a certain set of remedies, dangerous and expensive though they may be. You know you would have a huge learning curve to understand the holistic health world and all its remedies (herbs, vitamins, homeopathics, aromatherapies, etc.). And you know if


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you tried any of them on your patients, you would be punished by refusal of health insurance coverage and possibly sued if anything happened. Why risk it??

For this reason, I think Western MDs will have a hard time jumping into the holistic health world. They are disincented to do so. Until that changes, I cannot see Western MDs leading us into safer, more effective remedies, or even following us there. This is not because MDs are bad people, but because they have bigger hurdles to overcome than the rest of us do.

Have you ever wondered how MDs can stay healthy even though their job puts them face-to-face with contagious diseases every day? Many MDs are able to stay healthy because they use natural remedies like herbs and homeopathics for themselves that work to keep them healthy. They are completely open to these remedies for themselves and their own families, but they cannot use them in the medical setting because the system would punish them for “being different.” Who can argue with that logic?

The solution, of course, is not to try to “convince” Western MDs of the value of natural remedies, because many of them are already convinced. Doctors cannot act on the knowledge they already have. The solution is to fix the system.

Fixing systems at a national, or even state, level takes time. Years. So, while we are changing the system, this book offers help for how people can afford to use the best remedies and still


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be covered for the big problems that Western medicine solves so well.

The Family Practitioner

First, you must decide on your family practitioner. This is the person who will be your “first line of defense” or the “traffic cop” of the rest of the team. This person will know everything that is going on with your family (or yourself) and will be responsible for identifying overlaps or even dangers across practices.

This person might be a Western MD. They might be a DO (doctor of osteopathy). They might be a chiropractor.

My personal choice is a naturopath. We use a naturopathic doctor as our “first line of defense” for all ailments, and if she is unable to help us or she knows of another practitioner who specializes in a certain issue, she will refer us elsewhere. Even if we seek out other practitioners elsewhere, we always get back to our naturopathic doctor to let her know what we are doing health-wise, so she can counsel us if necessary. She is very active with e-mail, so it is easy for us to give her frequent updates and get her responses.

For me, there is no comparison between a Western MD and my naturopathic doctor. My doctor costs much less, spends more time with me, and sends me home with a bag full of slippery elm, papaya mint, licorice root and St. John’s Wort, instead of


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drugs with unpronounceable names and labels full of worrying side effects. But that is just my opinion. You need to decide for yourself who you are most comfortable with.

It will be difficult to find the exact right family practitioner. There are so many factors involved.

1. The personality of the practitioner must be a fit for you and your family members. The person must be trustworthy and friendly in your eyes.

2. The person must have the knowledge of the remedies you want as your first line of defense. If you always want to try herbs and vitamin therapy first, the family practitioner should know the most about those. If you want to try energy work first, the family practitioner should be familiar and practice those modalities expertly.

3. The person must have a wide variety of knowledge and connections with practitioners of other modalities. The best situation is if the practitioner is connected with other practitioners in the same clinic. Today, the “integrated holistic clinic” is very hard to find, so do not expect this unless you are very lucky.

4. The person’s biases should match your own. If the practitioner is usually biased towards structural remedies (chiropractic, osteopathic, Alexander Technique, etc.) then they will usually tend to use and refer those practices before any other. This isn’t so much because they are money-hungry, but because their minds will always lead them towards that which they know well. As


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far as I know, this is true of every family practitioner I’ve met.

5. The person should be more open-minded than you are. If the practitioner is always chiding you or warning you not to try anything outside a certain realm, you will not be happy. But if they are gently leading you into some new modalities that you may not have tried on your own, that is the best situation.

6. The person must be accessible between appointments. Many practitioners use e-mail to keep in touch with their clients between appointments. You cannot imagine how useful and comforting this is. Ask how often they check their e-mail, and what, if anything, they charge to offer you their e-mail service. If they charge nothing, thank your lucky stars.

7. Consider the level of training you are comfortable with. Don’t fall into the mental trap of “more years of training is better.” Not so. I’ve been to many MDs with years of training who could not hold a candle to a naturopath who learned everything through correspondence school and mentoring from other practitioners. Why? She cares, they don’t. She listens, they don’t. She works with me fit the dietary and exercise changes into my lifestyle, they didn’t.

I need to warn you that your search for the right family practitioner may be a long one. But it will be worth it.


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If you decide to use a Western MD, make sure they can conform to all the criteria above. And realize that you will usually pay more for Western MDs than you would for a holistic practitioner like a naturopath or chiropractor. But you must stick with the person and profession where you will feel most comfortable, so don’t let your pocketbook dictate something that your comfort level will reject.

The Rest of the Network

As I said, if your family practitioner is part of a clinic where the practitioners know each other’s practices and how they integrate, you’re in great luck! An integrated clinic like this will be the choice of the future for the holistic client. However, today they are very hard to find. You’ll probably have to create your own “virtual clinic” of practitioners you know and trust. You’ll also probably have to educate your family practitioner about your choices, and get their input. The network of practitioners you decide on must fit your own preferences, conditions and beliefs.

For instance, I have a naturopathic doctor as my family practitioner. She is my first line of defense when I have health issues or questions. When I had digestion problems, she was able to help me with a set of herbs, vitamins, stress management and exercise suggestions. She also referred me to a Chinese acupressure specialist who is well-known for helping people with stress management.


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However, with a lower backache, she might accept my suggestion to see a rolfer that I have had excellent results with in the past. The rolfer would likely be able to resolve the backache with a set of three appointments.

With a skin cancer question, my naturopath would undoubtedly refer me straight to a dermatologist.

Naturopathic Pracs

TCM Pracs

Ayurvedic Pracs

Structural Pracs

Energetic Pracs

Client First Line of Defense
First Line
of Defense

• naturopath

• osteopath

• chiropractor

• TCM doctor

• ayurvedic doctor

• medical intuitive

For the flu, my naturopath might give me Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy known to help ease flu symptoms. She might then suggest a series of chi gong classes to build up my chi (life energy) to help my immune system fight off the flu next time.

Without her acting as my first line of defense, I tend to get myself in trouble. On the advice of a friend, I started to take a


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supplement called SeaSilver tm , which sounded like an excellent replacement to my set of daily vitamins.

I noticed I was beginning to get digestive problems on the SeaSilver more than I had before. I spoke to my naturopath about it and she said that SeaSilver contains colloidal silver, which is an antibiotic, and damages the lining of the gut if used over a long period of time (more than 1-2 months). I would not have known this without her help.

Your network of practitioners does not need to cover every possible practice, that would be crazy. Instead, try to have at least one known practitioner in each category:

your family practitioner (Western MD, osteopath, naturopath, chiropractor, etc.)

structural (chiropractic, osteopathic, etc.)

soft tissue (massage, rolfing, etc.)

energy (reiki, polarity, etc.)

movement arts teacher (yoga, aerobics, etc.)

mind and emotions practitioner (meditation, psychology, etc.)

nutrition and supplements (your naturopath may already provide these)

Western medicine (in addition to your family practitioner if that person is not an MD)

Pick one practitioner for each major heading (structural, soft tissue, energy, etc.). You may choose the practitioner first or the


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individual practice first, which ever you prefer. Have a conference with each candidate practitioner in each major heading to see if they are a fit for what you need.

You may decide that you do not wish to have a major heading represented. Perhaps your religious beliefs prevent you from allowing any type of energy work such as reiki or Healing Touch on your body. In this case, you would rule out that category of healing and not choose a practitioner.

You are obviously free to rule out any practice or category of practices you wish. My personal advice to you is “don’t do it.” Don’t rule out practices because they “sound weird” or you think they might not fit with your religious beliefs. Talk to a practitioner in that category first, then make your decision. You might be surprised.

So You Wanna Stick with Western Medicine?

Maybe you’ve read this far, and you’ve decided that you are not willing to try anyone other than a Western MD as your family practitioner. Okay, it’s your choice. So let’s examine how you can make that work financially, since the Western MD is more expensive.

Choose a Caring MD Choose your Western MD based on all the criteria for choosing a family practitioner stated previously. Also make sure that the


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MD is in your health insurance network, so you will receive

reduced fees.

A lot of people don’t realize that doctor’s fees are negotiable.

Talk to your chosen doctor about your financial situation and see what type of arrangement you can both agree to. And remember that every fee that goes through your insurance plan, whether it is covered or part of your deductible that you pay, is subject to a substantial discount already negotiated by the insurance company, as long as it is considered medically necessary by the insurance company.

You will need to schedule physical exams every one to two

years for each person in your family, depending on the costs. Doctors recommend a physical checkup every year, but that

may not be affordable because the doctor visits are so expensive

for you with this plan.

Then, when you encounter specific illnesses, see your MD as soon as possible. If you use hospital emergency facilities, you

will be spending your own money out-of-pocket until you hit

your deductible. That’s okay, it’s what you’ve planned for, but

if you overuse it you will use your HSA money up every year,

losing the opportunity to save that money for retirement.

Home Remedies For the Little Things Seeing an MD for “every little sniffle” will quickly use up your deductibles and your HSA. You may consider having a set of natural remedies available to you at home. Putting this toolkit


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together will take research and advice from people knowledgeable about home remedies like homeopathics, herbs, etc.

So You Wanna Go Holistic?

If you’ve read this far in the book, you might have decided you are willing to change your mind about healthcare, and you’re willing to try holistic health practices.

Or, even better, you might already be using holistic health services, and a reason for you buying this book was to find out how to pay for them more easily.

Definition of Holistic Health To define holistic health, I turn to the American Holistic Medical Association (

1. Holistic physicians embrace a variety of safe, effective options in the diagnosis and treatment, including a) education for lifestyle changes and self-care, b) complementary alternatives and c) conventional drugs and surgery.

2. Searching for the underlying causes of disease is preferable to treating symptoms alone.

3. Holistic physicians expend as much effort in establishing what kind of patient has a disease as they do in establishing what kind of disease a patient has.


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4. Prevention is preferable to treatment and is usually more cost-effective. The most cost-effective approach evokes the patient’s own innate healing capabilities.

5. Illness is viewed as a manifestation of a dysfunction of the whole person, not as an isolated event.

6. A major determinant of healing outcomes is the quality of the relationship established between physician and patient, in which patient autonomy is encouraged.

7. The ideal physician-patient relationship considers the needs, desires, awareness and insight of the patient as well as those of the physician.

8. Physicians significantly influence patients by their example.

9. Illness, pain and the dying process can be learning opportunities for patients and physicians.

10. Holistic physicians encourage patients to evoke the healing power of love, hope humor and enthusiasm, and to release the toxic consequences of hostility, shame, greed, depression and prolonged fear, anger and grief.

11. Unconditional love is life’s most powerful medicine. Physicians strive to adopt an attitude of unconditional love for patients, themselves and other practitioners.

12. Optimal health is much more than the absence of sickness. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, spiritual and social aspects of the human experience.

Is this the type of person you want? If so, then you want a holistic health practitioner.


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So, holistic health is about treating the person as a whole human being: mind, body and spirit. Holistic health practitioner assume that there will be interactions between the mind, body and spirit and that they should be able to understand those interactions and help you deal with them.

Notice there’s nothing in the definition from the AHMA that describes specific types of healing. Acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic are not mentioned. Why not? Because holistic healing does not relate to a specific type of treatment, but instead the mindset that the practitioner uses when treating. The mindset being that a patient is one mind, body and spirit.

However, certain modalities (healing practices) lend themselves to the holistic health mindset and others do not.

What does it mean to “go holistic” as far as your family’s healthcare is concerned? Here are a few points to consider:

Going holistic means:

Accepting responsibility for one’s own health instead of putting oneself “blindly into the hands” of a medical practitioner

Taking a “safest, cheapest appropriate remedy first” approach to all health events

Taking steps to research each and every health issue that comes up


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Acknowledging that health issues usually have origins in mind-body interactions or even in spiritual factors

Being open-minded to health practices that “seem weird” but get results for people

Putting emphasis on prevention of disease rather than cure

Understanding the difference between healing and curing.

Let’s examine each of these points in more detail.

Accept Responsibility for Your Own Health Going holistic is not for the faint of heart. The implication of going holistic is that each individual takes responsibility for their own health. Healing does not come from the outside, not in the form of a pill, a doctor’s sage advice or a surgical procedure.

Healing comes from within. Holistic health strongly advocates that patients heal themselves, that the body is a self-healing instrument that needs only a few prerequisite conditions to function properly. Once you and your health advisors create those conditions, the body does all the healing by itself.

Many holistic health practitioners feel that the mind plays an important part in the onset of a disease. Some people find this


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unacceptable. “You mean you want me to feel guilty for getting cancer???”

But the focus of holistic health is not on assignment of guilt. Instead, it is a fact of taking responsibility. Bernie Siegel points out that patients who take responsibility for their own health, rather than “putting it into their doctor’s hands” fare much better in battling diseases (SIEGEL1990). The most cantankerous patients in the hospital are the ones most likely to survive, according to Dr. Siegel.

Assigning guilt is looking backward. Taking responsibility is looking forward.

Healing comes from within.

Safest, Cheapest Appropriate Remedy First Holistic remedies are usually much safer and cheaper than Western medicine. This is largely because holistic remedies are often taken from ancient practices around the world, especially China and India. Time has tested these remedies so thoroughly that many of the “side effects” common in Western medical drugs and surgery are simply not present.


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Also, holistic remedies operate on subtler principles than Western medicine. Holistic remedies like herbs, homeopathics, aromatherapy, vitamin therapy, body work, energy work and others work with the patients systems (body, mind and spirit) to encourage healing. This process is much more subtle than the Western medical approach, which is to introduce a chemical to fight the body in some way to establish “control over nature.” These remedies will always have to be much more strong and dangerous.

Going holistic does not mean forsaking Western medicine. Instead, it means taking intelligent steps in a program that starts with safe, effective and inexpensive remedies first, and progressing to more expensive, dangerous options only when the first ones prove ineffective.

My wife’s approach to sinus headaches is a good example of this process. She suffers from sinus headaches once or twice a month when we get dramatic Ohio weather changes. First, she uses an aromatherapeutic remedy called Sinus Relief by ArcAncient which she rubs on her forehead and the bridge of her nose. The remedy contains centella, tea tree, ravensara, peppermint, eucalyptus and camomile. Three-quarters of the time, this solves the headache and she goes on with her day. But sometimes, it does not work. Then she moves to a homeopathic remedy for sinus headaches, called Sinus Relief by Natra-Bio. It contains a number of homeopathic preparations. She puts a few drops under her tongue, and usually this works. Again, in the few instances where neither of these safe remedies work, she moves on to an over-the-counter


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sinus remedy called Sinutab Sinus Allergy Formula. In most cases, this Western medicine takes care of the problem, although sometimes not and she then needs to take a rest and wait it out. As a result, she is taking the expensive Sinutab drug with its side effects only about once every two years, a very reasonable risk (except her packages of Sinutab keep expiring!).

Do Your Own Health Research Going holistic means that you take responsibility for your own health, and if you are going to do that, you’d better be well- informed.

Fortunately, the tools to help you get informed on any type of health issue are better than any other time in history. Your best friend in health research is the Internet. The Internet has singlehandedly empowered consumers to become their own best source of healthcare information.

Like any best friend, though, the Internet has its dark side. Misleading, irresponsible sources of information on the Internet are everywhere. The best way to resolve this issue is to read everything, but pay closest attention to Websites that are produced by credible sources – healthcare institutions, government agencies, reputable practitioners, quality news sources (CNN, Washington Post, etc.). If in doubt, search on the institution or practitioner. If you find them quoted elsewhere in credible sources, you can probably trust them. When you find a particular fact that you want to check out, use


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a process I call “triangulation.” See if you can find that fact reported in at least two other places, worded differently. If you can, you can be more sure (but not totally sure) of the original report.

Acknowledge Mind-Body-Spirit Interactions Holistic health at its center is an acknowledgement that there is more to a person’s health than what is working or not working in the physical body. Holistic means treating a person as a whole human being – body, mind and spirit. Issues in one area influence the others, and diseases in the physical body are often manifestations of issues that occurred in the mind or spirit.

Of course, there are levels to which people subscribe to the holistic principle. People who are comfortable with “new age” lifestyles might be able to handle the entire body-mind-spirit paradigm. New age religions and ideals are certainly in alignment with holistic health.

People from China, India or other Far East countries might have an easy time accepting holistic health principles, since it comes directly from these countries in the first place.

People who belong to Eastern religions will feel more comfortable with holistic health in all its realms. Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists and Kabbalists will have little problem integrating their spiritual beliefs into their healthcare plan, because those religions have done that effortlessly for thousands of years.


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Other Americans might wince a little at the spiritual side of health. Christians tend to prefer to keep their spirituality and healthcare separate. This belief dates back to a tradition established hundreds of years ago when René Descartes struck a deal with the Catholic Church that he would limit his philosophy to the physical body and the physical world if the Catholic Church would agree not to persecute him. Since then, Christians have stayed true to the split between the tangible and intangible. “For a physical problem, I’ll go to the doctor. For a spiritual problem, I’ll see my pastor/priest/rabbi.”

At the extreme, some Americans may feel that body, mind and spirit must be kept separate from each other. The doctor treats the body, the psychiatrist treats the mind and the pastor/priest/rabbi treats the spirit. Someone who strongly feels that all three must be kept separate, and that co-mingling one with the other would be harmful to one’s religious beliefs, may have trouble accepting holistic principles. A person will need to accept at least mind-body interactions to prosper in a holistic health system, interactions like:

A person who is depressed after losing a loved one has a reduced immune system and is therefore more susceptible to colds, flu and other infections.

Flying into a rage causes higher blood pressure, which can lead to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Relaxing in a hot tub relaxes not only the body but also the mind.


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A person would need to at least accept these mind-body interactions to be open-minded enough toward holistic healthcare.

Holistic health will work as much as you will let it. If you feel that you could substitute vitamins and herbs for pharmaceuticals, but you aren’t willing to look beyond that, you’ll still benefit. Acknowledging mind-body interactions (if you get depressed, you’re more likely to catch a cold, etc.) is a big step towards a holistic mindset. Even ten years ago this would have been a “fringe” way of thinking, but today it is common to find Western doctors who are interested in how the mind affects the body and vice versa.

NOTE: Please see the section on Holistic Health for Christians for more information on this topic.

Be Open-Minded Holistic health therapies open require an open mind. Because of the nature of holistic health, scientific studies cannot measure the effects of these therapies. A controlled scientific study involves splitting patients into two groups, giving one group the therapy under examination, and the other group a placebo (usually a sugar pill). The scientists then measure the difference between the “placebo effect” and the effect of the therapy under examination (usually a drug).


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Imagine trying to do this with massage. How do you do a “placebo massage” where the patient thinks they’re getting a massage but they’re really not? How do you fake an aroma? How do you do a placebo-based study on “eat more vegetables?”

“How do you study a placebo massage??”

Also, a big hindrance to controlled studies of holistic health practices has been the cost. Pharmaceutical companies can fund controlled studies (which often cost into the millions of dollars) because they can recoup the costs by selling the drugs at high prices once the studies have proven the drug successful. But who would want to fund holistic health research? Who holds the patent? No one, of course. So it does not make financial sense to study these therapies. Surprisingly, some research institutions are studying herbal remedies in a controlled, scientific manner, but there is still no financial impetus behind large scale studies of these remedies, and there probably never will be.

The holistic health client must be open-minded towards therapies. Try it, maybe you’ll like it. Remember, you now have money set aside each month to spend on holistic therapies. Use that money to experiment on interesting-sounding therapies that might help you in some way. If it’s too weird for you, don’t go back. But if you think there might be something there, try it


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again. Most holistic therapies require a series of sessions to be effective. For

instance, acupuncture can sometimes accomplish results in one session, but more often it

requires five to ten sessions to help a client with some specific health issue. Chiropractors are famous for demanding their client return again and again for treatment, but there is really validity in their approach.

Choose a holistic family practitioner who is more open-minded towards new modalities than you are.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense to be adjusted three times a week for six months, but it may be useful (and affordable!) to see the chiropractor once a week for two months. Remember, in holistic health, you are in charge of how the treatment proceeds.

If you find that you tend always toward structural remedies (chiropractic, osteopathic, rolfing, etc.), use some of your money to experiment with other modalities (soft tissue, energy work, etc.).

Also, choose a family practitioner who is more open-minded than you are. This will help you continue to broaden your horizons further each doctor visit, rather than trying to fight a practitioner who encourages you to stay in a narrow range of treatment (Western medicine, structural care, etc.).


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Emphasize Prevention Holistic healthcare embodies another powerful concept:

wellness. Western medicine is, in fact, not a healthcare system but a sickness care system. It is focused on curing disease, not on preventing it.

Wellness is a concept with two parts. First, it says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Taking steps when a person is not sick is infinitely cheaper and more effective than waiting until one is ill and then trying to reverse the sickness process.

The second part of wellness is more subtle. It says that there is no upper limit to health. Health is not simply a lack of disease, but something that a person can build up and up so that moving is effortless, relationships are loving and living is a joy, Wellness is a mindset that a person can work with, not only staying well, but working towards achieving “optimum health.”

In practice, this means incorporating daily rituals that help maintain and increase health: taking walks, vitamins at meals, eating right, exerting control over one’s emotions, meditation, etc.

Wellness takes strength of character and will. Taking steps to regain health after an illness is much easier than taking steps to stay well, or achieve optimum health.


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Understanding the Difference Between Healing and Curing

A Western doctor might not differentiate between healing and

curing. But a holistic practitioner likely will.

In holistic healthcare, healing can occur without curing. To give

some definitions to each:

Curing is getting rid of physical symptoms.

Healing is taking a patient to a new state where body-mind-spirit are operating at a higher level.

For example, a patient who has brain cancer may have only days to live. An energy worker may do some work on the person that gives them hope and happiness in their final days. The patient does die, so no cure was given. However, their last days were infinitely more pleasant than they would have been, so healing occurred.


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Differences Between Western Medicine and Holistic Healthcare

It’s worthwhile to look at the major differences between Western medicine and holistic healthcare. This table shows some differences in approach, philosophy and application.

Western Medicine

Holistic Health

Focuses on measurements and studies

Focuses on experience

Body as a machine that needs to be fixed

Body has innate healing capability

Classified diagnosis

Specific individual needs



Practitioner as authority

Practitioner as educator

Speed, comfort, convenience

Restoration, regeneration, transformation

Best for infectious diseases, trauma, organ failure

Best for degenerative, chronic stress and lifestyle issues


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Symptom/Syndrome/Tonic in Western Medicine

Here is a normal diagnosis cycle in Western medicine. You experience a set of symptoms; let’s say dizziness, double- vision, some muscle spasms in your legs and slight depression. Your doctor discusses your concerns briefly and then runs a set

of tests and declares, “You have multiple sclerosis (MS).” Now

you know what you have. Then he tells you your choices of treatments, and you pick one. There is no cure for MS, so you need to learn how to live with it and not let it kill you, which it could.

The symptoms were the dizziness, double-vision, etc. The syndrome (literally a bundle of symptoms) is MS. The tonic is the set of treatments you decide to use, probably a lot of drugs, stay away from certain foods, etc.

Symptom/Cause/Therapy in Holistic Medicine

A holistic health practitioner is very likely to follow a different

path. They will probably use a symptom/cause/therapy cycle.

The holistic practitioner will discuss your symptoms in great detail, usually for thirty to ninety minutes, depending on what is happening in your life. They will be interested in not only the presence physical symptoms (dizziness, muscle spasms, etc.) but also their character. When does the dizziness happen? What usually happens preceding it? How does it make you feel when it happens? Is there throbbing in your head when it occurs? Has it ever caused you to fall over?


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By asking these questions, the holistic practitioner is looking for the cause. The cause might be emotional (“whenever my husband and I have a fight”), physical or dietary (“whenever I get up off a chair or eat sweets”) or spiritual (“attachment of a dead father’s spirit”).

Once you and the practitioner agree on a cause, you can both explore treatment options, which will match the cause (emotional, physical, dietary, spiritual, etc.). It is quite likely there will be multiple causes, crossing the mind-body-spirit boundaries. Perhaps it will include some dietary changes, physical exercises, hypnosis, herbs, any of a variety of therapies.

Why does the holistic health practitioner skip the syndrome step? There are several reasons.

1. A disease is a box. Declaring a person is a “victim of MS” puts them into a neat little box that is very convenient for the physician but not at all desirable for the person. The physician cannot help but look at them as a “disease” instead of a “person.” The label depersonalizes the treatment from that point on. Politically correct terms which change “epileptic” to “a person with epilepsy” sound ridiculous, but they are a weak attempt to put the person first and the disease second. Holistic health is a more powerful way to put the person first.


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2. Self-fulfilling prophecies. Diseases act differently in different people, often dramatically so. Trying to predict how a disease or syndrome will progress in a particular person often isn’t accurate, and is never helpful in giving a person hope in overcoming their condition. Self- fulfilling prophecies take over and the person watches for any little sign that they are getting worse in the particular way the doctor assumed they would.

3. Legal restrictions. Holistic health practitioners are legally restricted from making a diagnosis in many US states. Western medical doctors consider this their sole responsibility, and they are very fearful of allowing people who are not trained in Western medicine to make declarations about diseases and syndromes.

Ancient Care is the Best Care

In my experience, I’ve found an effective way to evaluate holistic health practices that I’d like to share:

I trust treatments based on how many decades or centuries they’ve been tested in real life.

Therefore, if something like acupuncture has been used in the same way for thousands of years in China, I am very inclined to believe it works. However, if someone has invented a new tonic that they say will accomplish various health goals, I am less inclined to believe it until I’ve seen it in use for years and creating results for people.


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I don’t need to see controlled studies to prove that Chinese medicine works. All I need to see if that a nation of billions of people rely on it and have used it for a long, long time. What controlled study could come close to that assurance?

Western Medicine’s Big Excuse for Not Going Holistic

Closed-minded Western medical practitioners usually try to point to the handful of holistic treatments that have a bad reputation in an effort to paint the entire realm of holistic healthcare. Ephedra can be tangentially linked to 155 deaths in the past few years. Kava kava is said to be linked to forty deaths.

First, any of these substances taken to an extreme will cause problems, even death. There have been several reports of college hazings occuring where a fraternity freshman has been forced to drink huge quantities of water, resulting in vomiting and death. Water! So proving that herbal remedies can cause death when taken in great quantities does not prove much.

Second, it’s interesting to compare these figures against deaths from pharmaceuticals. Every year, more than one hundred thousand people die from receiving the right drug, in the right dosage at the right time. Compare 100,000 to 155. And realize that this huge figure does not count overdoses of pharmaceuticals, whereas all the figures for herbals are due to overdoses.


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Ask a Western medical doctor who is not open-minded to holistic treatments, and he’ll probably give you this response:

“Although many holistic remedies cannot be proven as dangerous, they really are. People who get diverted into using holistic treatments are wasting valuable time and allowing their condition to progress by not getting Western medical treatment sooner.”

But there’s a flipside to this excuse. What if a person began using Western medicine, and it didn’t work, and they died? Couldn’t you say they should have tried holistic treatments, in retrospect? And that they were wasting their time with Western medicine and causing their own death by making that choice? The excuse is nonsensical in both directions.


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The Holistic Health Practices

There is no way I could document all the holistic health practices in one book – too many!! However, I will attempt to list the most popular practices in North America and give you enough information for you to decide whether it might be worth trying.


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Holistic Practices

Entire Health Systems


Short Description

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vast system of diet,

movement (yoga), astrology, body types, herbs, massage, arrangement of objects, etc.


not a specific therapy but a grouping of therapies done or managed by one practitioner, often includes: herbs, vitamin therapy, homeopathy, hypnosis, exercise, massage,




vast system of diet,


movement (chi gong), treatments (acupuncture), herbs, massage (tui na), arrangement of objects (feng shui), etc.





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Diagnostic Techniques


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using muscle strength to determine sensitivities to substances and emotions


Chinese pulse

using the characteristics of a person’s pulse to determine health issues





using the characteristics of a person’s tongue to determine health issues







using a computer program to determine weaknesses in a person’s energy pathways, also called meridian stress assessment



a combination of applied kinesiology and acupressure/acupuncture to eliminate sensitivities to any allergen (animal hair, eggs, milk, peanuts, latex, ragweed, etc.)





Touch for

using muscle strength to determine sensitivities to substances and emotions



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Energy Work


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pressing fingers on the body at certain points to restore the flow of energy (“chi”) through the body



use of small needles in the skin to restore the flow of energy (“chi”) through the body


using prayer to heal self and others heal

prayer therapy

Bach flower

taking the essences of specific flowers to help with a wide variety of emotional issues



using hands and fingers on the skin to harmonize vibrational energy


color therapy

viewing colors to resolve physical and emotional issues

crystal healing

using crystals (rocks) to change a person’s vibration and encourage opening and healing


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Healing Touch

subtle energy healing done by touching the hands gently on the body and generating a flow of energy


taking extremely diluted substances to resolve health issues, uses a “like cures like” principle, operates on a vibrational level with the person and the disease


North American Indian energy work, using hands to heal a person’s energy pathways


using magnetic fields to treat a variety of physical and emotional conditions, including circulatory problems, certain forms of arthritis, chronic pain, sleep disorders and stress



simple exercises done at home to reinforce the subconscious messages from Trager Work


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pressing fingers on points on the body to restore the flow of energy (“chi”) through the body



use of small needles and heat from burning herbs to restore the flow of energy (“chi”) through the body


combination of Chinese and Indian techniques of body and energy work


pressing fingers on points in the hands, feet and ears to restore the flow of energy (“chi”) through the body


subtle energy healing done by touching the hands gently on the body and generating a flow of energy (“chi”)


subtle energy healing done by touching the hands gently on the body and generating a flow of energy



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Trager Work

using the hands to gently knead and stretch the body to reprogram the subconscious into a pain-free state

zero balancing

changing a person’s energy by realigning the foundation joints


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Mind and Emotions


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art therapy

allowing a person to express themselves through art to improve healing


using feedback of bodily signals (brain waves, heartbeat, skin temperature, etc.) to change behavior


charting the rhythms of a person’s emotional, intellectual and physical abilities to identify issues and find treatment


interpreting dreams to resolve issues

group therapy

using the support of other people with similar problems to overcome issues


putting a person in a meditative state to resolve physical or emotional issues

light therapy

using sunlight or simulated sunlight to treat emotional issues



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quieting the mind to connect with the universe at a spiritual level

music therapy

using music (mostly classical) to reduce stress and improve healing


changing a person’s psychological programming to reduce fear, stress and discomfort



palm therapy

programming the mind through the palms of a person’s hands


using techniques from Freud and Jung to probe psychological issues and resolve them

sound therapy

using the vibration of sound to facilitate healing


creating visions in a meditative state to overcome physical or emotional issues


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Movement Arts


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gentle martial art used for self-defense and personal growth

chi gong

Chinese energy system including martial arts, meditation and energy work

dance therapy

using dance to improve flexibility and mood

fitness training

using aerobic exercise and weight training to increase muscle, reduce fat and enhance mental and physical performance

Nia technique

“neuromuscular integrative action” – combination of workout and dance to improve health

shaolin kung

martial art to develop the physical body, promote emotional and spiritual harmony


tai chi

slow Chinese martial art with physical and spiritual aspects


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stretching movements and poses with physical and spiritual, meditative aspects


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Nutrition and Supplements


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changing one’s diet to a Japanese style diet – brown rice, seaweed, completely vegetarian




using smells to encourage healing, either through the nose or through the skin


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using bee stings to help heal problems like arthritis and nerve damage

Bates Method

exercises for increasing vision without glasses or contacts

ear candling

using smoke from candles to remove wax from a person’s ear and release tension


incorporating homeopathy, nutrition and acupuncture into dentistry, also avoid mercury fillings and using the teeth as acupoints for the body



cold compresses (cryotherapy), freeze sprays, ice, sitz baths, whirlpools to reduce inflammation and solve various health issues


a sensory isolation flotation tank used to reduce stress and enhance meditation



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using alternating hot and cold stones on the body to promote relaxation and healing



injections of sugar water and anesthetic into a joint to relieve chronic pain



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Soft Tissue Body Work


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rhythmic body work and stretching


self-help massage combined with macrobiotic diet

Indian head

massage with oil into a person’s head to rebuild energy pathways, relieve stress and promote healthy hair growth



working on a person’s muscles and bones by walking on them, adjusting bones and massaging


a meditative type of body massage focusing on the acupressure points



the most familiar “therapeutic massage” in North America, encouraging blood flow and healing through massage


trigger point

massage technique focusing on nerve endings, also called neuromassage



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shiatsu massage done in water with the person floating in the arms of the practitioner


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teaching a person new ways to sit and move in ways to improve breathing, speech and overall well-being



high velocity manipulations to the spine and neck to restore overall healing


gentle manipulations of the bones of the skull to restore a person’s healing system



gentle touch at the back of the skull and the bottom of the spine to enhance overall well- being, often resulting in emotional releases during therapy


deepening a person’s awareness of movement to improve posture and healing



realigning the body to increase mobility and overall well-being


a gentler form of chiropractic



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using the hands to move a person’s connective tissue (ligaments, fascia, etc.) to improve health or resolve an issue

network spinal

gentle touch at the back of the skull and the bottom of the spine to enhance overall well- being



changing the skeleton and muscles to encourage better blood flow and movement


physical medicine and rehabilitation, a variety of techniques to help the person by making physical adjustments and massage


using the hands and elbows to move the fascia, tissue wrapping the muscles, to create better posture and overall well-being


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Six Easy Systems

Holistic health as an entire field is completely overwhelming. There are so many unique practices that one could choose from. Each promises to fix the problem you have, but who’s to say? And if one doesn’t work, which one should you pick next?

As we’ve said, you need to first concentrate on getting the family practitioner, a person who is your first line of defense for all health issues.

Each family practitioner will have a bias towards one or another “system” of healthcare. Here are a few of those systems, to help you decide which one might suit you best.

Naturopathic System In a naturopathic system, your first line of defense is a naturopathic doctor.

1. Focuses on safe, effective tonics and therapies

2. Uses remedies from a variety of sources, including Chinese, Indian, North American and European

3. Doctor will spend a lot of time with you to discover the symptoms and conditions of your health issues

4. Usually underemphasizes energy medicine like reiki, Healing Touch, etc.

5. Two types of naturopathic doctors, one associated with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the other associated with the


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American Naturopathic Medical Association (ANMA)

a. AANP naturopathic doctors have been through years of training in one of five schools in the US that are similar to Western medical schools, with strong emphasis on knowledge of the body, diseases, herbs, vitamins, homeopathy and hypnosis

b. ANMA naturopathic doctors can have any of a wide range of training levels, and may be limited in one of many medical systems (Chinese, Indian, etc.)

c. In summary, with the AANP, you know what you’re getting, which is a Western medicine- friendly doctor experience, except with much more attention and with safer, more natural remedies. With the ANMA, you might get very good, well-trained naturopaths, or you might get someone with very little knowledge. It is not fair to say the AANP practitioner is better than someone belonging to the ANMA, there are excellent doctors in both organizations.


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Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) System Your first line of defense in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a TCM doctor, often called an acupuncturist. You will want someone who is familiar with much more than just acupuncture. Tui na (Chinese massage) and Chinese herbs are two of the many other aspects of TCM.

1. TCM uses the thousands of years of knowledge in successful Chinese medical practice.

2. TCM is a complete medical system including understanding the body, mind and spirit, diseases, energy medicine, movement and therapies.

3. The most well-known TCM practice is acupuncture, inserting thin, small needles into the skin to change the flow of energy through the body.

4. TCM includes acupuncture, acupressure, chi gong, tai chi, tui na (massage), herbal medicine, feng shui and many other practices in a total integrated practice.

5. TCM doctors always use a set of herbs to treat a person, never just one particular herb or extract, they believe the interaction between the herbs is where the solution arises.

6. The TCM doctor will spend a lot of time with you to discover the symptoms and conditions of your health issues.

7. TCM doctors can come from several sources. There are reputable TCM schools in North America, including the American Institute of Alternative Medicine ( in Columbus, Ohio. These


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schools train students for years to understand the details of the Chinese medical approach. Another type of TCM doctor is a Western medically-trained doctor who has branched into Chinese medicine. The Western doctor requires less training that the TCM specialist, weeks instead of years. Again, a larger number of years in training do not automatically translate directly into a better doctor, but you should be aware of the training your TCM practitioner has and where it came from.

8. Most states regulate TCM doctors in some way, and some insurance policies cover TCM treatments (specifically acupuncture) if a Western doctor approves it as medically necessary.

9. Americans who are threatened by non-Christian spiritual traditions may not enjoy being clients of TCM. It is sometimes difficult to separate the spiritual from the non-spiritual in TCM.


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Ayurvedic System Your first line of defense in the ayurvedic system is an ayurvedic doctor, trained in India or even in American ayurvedic schools, like Deepak Chopra’s Center in California.

1. Ayurveda uses the thousands of years of knowledge in successful Indian medical practice.

2. Ayurveda means the “knowledge of life,” so it is a complete system for living a human life, not just medical.

3. Within ayurveda is a complete medical system including understanding the body, mind and spirit, diseases, energy medicine, movement and therapies.

4. The most well-known ayurvedic practice is yoga, a movement art which helps people increase their energy levels, flexibility, health and well-being.

5. TCM includes yoga, ayurvedic herbs, Indian massage, astrology and many other practices in a total integrated practice. It is said that TCM was borrowed from the Indian ayurvedic traditions many thousands of years ago, and since then each has evolved separately.

6. Ayurvedic doctors always use a set of herbs to treat a person, never just one particular herb or extract, they believe the interaction between the herbs is where the solution arises.

7. The ayurvedic doctor will spend a lot of time with you to discover the symptoms and conditions of your health issues.


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8. Most states do not regulate nor recognize ayurvedic practitioners. Insurance policies do not cover ayurvedic practices.

9. Americans who are threatened by non-Christian spiritual traditions may not enjoy being clients of ayurveda. It is sometimes difficult to separate the spiritual from the non-spiritual in ayurveda.


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Structural System In a structural system, your first line of defense will be an osteopathic doctor or a chiropractor. Some massage therapists are knowledgeable enough to play this role for you as well.

1. Structural systems include chiropractic, osteopathy, rolfing, massage therapy, naprapathy and others. These systems are based on the idea that illness results from imbalanced structure of the body, including the spine, head, overall posture or muscles.

2. Structural doctors will spend a lot of time with you understand your health issues.

3. Most structural systems originated in the US.

4. Most structural doctors will specialize in one of the systems, usually not more than one. To their structural system (say, chiropractic) they will usually add at- home exercises, massage therapy, herbal remedies and vitamins. The structural systems are not entire medical systems in themselves, the way TCM and ayurveda are.

5. Structural systems include some form of diagnosis, if only viewing a person’s posture and making adjustments according to visible imbalances.

6. Americans who are threatened by non-Christian spirituality will usually have no problem with any of the structural systems. Most structural practitioners do not include heavy spiritual systems into their work (although some certainly do).


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Energetic System In an energetic system, your first line of defense will be a medical intuitive. This is a person with psychic abilities who can see physical, emotional and spiritual issues in a person and can even sometimes suggest possible remedies.

1. Most energy systems use hands-on energy healing to resolve health issues. Energy systems include reiki, Brennan energy work, Bruyere energy work, Healing Touch, Therapeutic Touch and many others.

2. Energy workers will tend to communicate with your body at an energetic level instead of asking you a lot of questions about your health. They will certainly ask some things, but not as many as the other systems listed above.