The Sick Girl’s Guide to Hacking Your Health Insurance

At the end of 2019, millions of Americans renewed their insurance or chose new health insurance plans as the New Year began.

Over the past two years, I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about using my health insurance benefits. However, I’ve also learned how to hack my health insurance to get the most out of it — which is important because, as Cosmo writes, “insurance and medical bills are confusing and expensive.”

They’re especially confusing and expensive if you’re someone who uses the healthcare system a lot, like me — and I do mean a lot. Between weekly therapy appointments, a 6-week intensive outpatient program for mental health and umpteen doctor’s appointments with generalists and specialists alike as I sorted out my gut health issues, I’m positive I have hundreds of dollars in unpaid medical bills lying around somewhere. (And that’s not some weird “look-how-sick-I-am” flex, I promise!)

If there’s anything to take away from this post, it’s that you need health insurance and that more importantly, you need to understand your health insurance. And as much as I’d love a universal healthcare supporter — like a Bernie or an Elizabeth — to be elected president in 2020, we can’t close our eyes and cross our fingers in the meantime.

So, without further ado, here’s how to hack the sh*t out of your health insurance this year as a gal with chronic illness. You’re welcome, boss babes!

Go with the PPO

Someone who utilizes the healthcare system frequently should NOT choose an HSA plan. An HSA plan comes with lower premiums, but also worse benefits. In the long run, as someone with a chronic illness, you’ll save more money by paying more for the PPO upfront so you can reap better benefits from your health insurance down the road.

Hit That Deductible Hard

If you have a deductible on your plan, I recommend hitting it as soon as you can. Granted, this shouldn’t be a goal if you don’t have a chronic illness — but if you’re going to make the doctor’s visits or buy the meds anyways, then go ahead and schedule that extra appointment or fill that extra prescription early on.

The sooner you hit your deductible, the sooner your health insurance plan will start covering more of your healthcare, leaving you with more money left in your pocket…. although if getting on a plan without a deductible is an option for you, I highly recommend that alternative!

Save on Meds

Drugstores like CVS and certain health insurance companies (like mine, Anthem Blue Cross / Blue Cross Blue Shield) offer savings on medication if you choose to have it delivered straight to your mailbox, rather than picking them up in-store. If you take a lot of medication for your chronic condition, I highly recommend taking advantage of this service, especially if it comes with the option to have your pills separated into daily packs for convenience and ease on-the-go.

Sites like GoodRx can also help you save a quick buck on filling your medications by giving you coupons you can print and show to your pharmacist. For example, I looked up escitalopram (the generic version of Lexapro) and found that you can save almost $50 with GoodRx if you’re paying out-of-pocket for medication. Sometimes, these prices can even be better than those your insurance offers, so make sure to compare costs before picking up your meds in-store!

Redeem Fitness Benefits

Here’s a health insurance hack that anyone can use! Did you know that many health insurance companies offer discounts on certain fitness benefits? For example, some companies will reimburse the cost of your monthly gym membership. Others will even give you a fitness tracker 100% for free. Some will even pay for classes in yoga, dance, Pilates and more.

Since exercise is a great way to manage chronic illness symptoms for many conditions, I highly recommend you call your insurance company and look into what fitness benefits are available on your plan!

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Five Endometriosis Hacks You Haven’t Thought Of

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive payment for items purchased through my blog. Thanks for supporting Lovely & Lazy!

One of the reasons why chronic illness is so frustrating? Sometimes, it feels like we’ve exhausted every possible option. And trust me, after the 10th fruitless specialist visit, I get how it can feel that way.

Thankfully, something I’ve learned from my own struggles with chronic illness is that you’re never out of options — you simply need to know where to look. And now, I’ve done the deep digging on endometriosis so you don’t have to!

We all know the obvious tips for managing endometriosis at home: heating pads, NSAIDs and hormonal birth control all come to mind. But what about those less obvious tips you may not have thought of? That’s what this post is all about!

Electromagnetic Pulses

Although it might sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, electromagnetic pulses can help cure pelvic pain and period cramps! Livia is a scientifically-proven wearable device for controlling period pain. The Livia device attaches to the pelvis with gel pads and can be comfortably worn on the go. It works by stimulating the nerves with unique pulses that prevent the nerves from transmitting pain signals to the brain.

Kegel Exercises

In some cases, pelvic floor muscle dysfunction can result from endometriosis, worsening symptoms (particularly pain during sex). Thankfully, you can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles like any other muscle: with exercise! You can purchase relatively inexpensive kegel weights to aid in building pelvic floor muscle tone. Insert the weights into the vagina and tighten the muscles used to stop peeing mid-stream. Release and repeat for 15 minutes until it no longer feels challenging.

The Ohnut

Does sex hurt thanks to your endometriosis — especially with deep penetration? Meet the Ohnut, which was designed especially for women like you! This soft, flexible ring helps women comfortably explore different depths of penetration. Simply adjust the size of the Ohnut before inserting it to choose the depth that’s most comfortable for you and your partner.

Use my promo code LOVELYLAZY7 for $7 off your Ohnut! Click here to check it out.

Pelvic Massage

A 2010 study found that massaging the pelvis is helpful in reducing menstrual pain associated with endometriosis. Other studies have also found that women who receive regular massages have less pelvic pain associated with their menstrual periods. Manual therapy or pelvic floor physical therapy often includes therapeutic massages to reduce pain associated with endometriosis and adhesions.

Psychotherapy

Since so much of the pain experience is mental, it makes sense that psychotherapy can help with the management of endometriosis. Seeing a therapist can also help you cope with your diagnosis and any challenging emotions you may be experiencing as a result. It’s worth nothing that therapy that includes something called somatosensory stimulation (a.k.a. pressing different acupuncture points during the appointments) was more effective than ordinary psychotherapy when treating endometriosis patients.

Health Update: Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Endometriosis & Chronic Pelvic Pain

Wow, what a whirlwind today has been! Today (as of writing this post), I just got home from an appointment at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Endometriosis & Chronic Pelvic Pain. Finally, I feel like I’ve found answers after nearly two years of searching for them.

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that originally I was diagnosed with IBS. Yet something didn’t quite sit right with me about that diagnosis: I was eating low-FODMAP and doing everything right, but was still having symptoms. Plus, my symptoms worsened around my period.

Then I thought back on my history of painful periods and started to do some research into endometriosis. Every story I read from a woman with endo resonated with me, from having your pain dismissed to feeling like you’d tried everything to no avail. So, I made an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Endometriosis & Chronic Pelvic Pain here in Cleveland, where I met with Dr. Jessica Strasburg about my pain.

I have never felt more heard than when I stepped into the Center for Endometriosis & Chronic Pelvic Pain. After years of pain and suffering, Dr. Strasburg affirmed my suspicion of endometriosis. Here’s how my appointment went, and what’s next for me on my health journey as a woman with suspected endometriosis.

How My Appointment Went

My appointment at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Endometriosis and Chronic Pelvic Pain began the way most appointments do: with a weigh-in, a blood pressure check and a lot of questions from the nurse on duty. Then, I was asked to undress from the waist-down (like at any gynecologist appointment) and met with Dr. Strasburg.

Unlike most of the doctors I’ve had, Dr. Strasburg spent about an hour with me asking questions and examining my body. We talked about my history of painful periods and my newly-onset acute pelvic pain. Then, she did an abdominal and pelvic exam, which was painful, but incredibly informative.

After all that, Dr. Strasburg concluded that I was probably right: I probably do have endometriosis on the back wall of my uterus and bowel. In addition, I also have a pelvic floor dysfunction and vulvodynia, which have compounded my pain and made it even more difficult to overcome.

What’s Next for Me

According to my doctor, diagnostic laparoscopy is in my future — but whether that will be my immediate future is up to me. As of right now, I do think I want to have the diagnostic laparoscopy because it is minimally invasive and will provide me the answers I’ve wanted for so long now. To me, peace of mind and reduced pain for years to come is well worth a few one-inch scars.

But before we can get to that, I’ll have to have an MRI at Cleveland Clinic’s Main Campus (at this point, nothing I’m not used to). As long as it’s covered by my insurance, I’ll have the MRI because the contrast may show some of my endometriosis on-screen.

I’ll also be visiting Cleveland Clinic’s specialized physical therapy clinic for pelvic pain to work on my pelvic floor dysfunction. According to Dr. Strasburg, some women still have pain even when their endo is removed because their pelvic floor is still guarding (a.k.a. tensing up to protect itself). So, I will need to start PT exercises in order to work on my chronic pelvic pain and vulvodynia.