For Trade: Your Healthcare

How you can pay your medical bills by mowing your doctor's lawn.

Since the financial “downturn” (a very polite term to use for something that has affected so many people) the barter system has taken a stronger hold on how Americans do business.

Pockets of barterers across the country are pooling their collective talents together to exchange things instead of relying on the dwindling dollar. Even Donald Trump is getting in on the game—Mr. Trump recently accepted gold bullion as payment for rent in one of his NY skyscrapers.

While most of us don’t have gold bricks or property on Wall Street, there are basic—and costly—services we all need: healthcare. And even if we can’t afford to pay for our healthcare in cash, we may have something else that a healthcare provider wants.  

Groups in Arizona and Maine have already begun to use a network where people can exchange goods and services for visits to doctors.

Monday, NPR featured a story about True North, a nonprofit healthcare clinic where 33 patients pay their doctor bills by doing yard work and other chores. The goal is to provide better care (with doctor’s visits that can last up to an hour) for people without insurance or not enough insurance.

While this program probably could not be sustained everywhere (doctors do need money after all, especially young ones who are buried in debts from school) patients with True North are able to get the services they personally need through a network called Hour Exchange Portland.

A similar program has also sprung up in Arizona.

The truth is, this is an actual old way of thinking. Bartering for healthcare is nothing new to this country. Natives that populated America long before Europeans took over their lands had their medicine men, doctors who were given food and shelter by the tribe in exchange for medical care.

The barter system could offer an important step for numerous people, especially those who see cost as a major inhibitor to see a doctor when symptoms of a chronic condition do not pass. This could also get people to see their doctors more regularly for check-ups.

During a time of a growing political divide on how we should handle the health of our nation, the barter system seems to be a viable option that empowers both doctor and patient to be closer to one another. After all, if someone pays their doctor with services instead of cash, there’s a greater chance each side will be more invested in the others time.

Individual doctors interoffice exchange all of the time, and some even currently accept barter, but these larger programs expand the base of available goods and services.

Plus, if people are purposely mowing a neighbor’s lawn to pay off their doctor bills, they are more inclined to be active about their health. By investing their time and hard labor, they’re more inclined to get the most out of their healthcare. (Not to mention the fact that, for people with chronic conditions, the extra exercise may be part of their treatment.)

It’s also a great way to get to know people in your community while you improve your health. 

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