Health News Fri, 29 Jun 2012

You Can Negotiate Anything; Even Your Health

We all negotiate on a daily basis, after all negotiation simply focuses on gaining the favour of people from whom we want things. Many of us were better negotiators during our infancy when we had our own way of “cornering” our parents to do as we pleased. As adults we will go to the market and strike a great deal and even at work many of us will negotiate a juicy gross salary. Is it not strange then that as soon as our health is put on the drawing board all our negotiating instincts are immediately paralyzed?

The foundation of any good negotiation is INFORMATION and the same applies when it comes to optimizing your time and benefits from an interaction with your healthcare professional, your employer and your insurance company. An informed patient is always a delight to work with and so is an informed employee.

You will need to build a good relationship with the person you need to negotiate with. Your healthcare professional should be someone you can open up to. Why leave the hospital only to seek help from the curbside professionals simply because you felt shy to discuss that particular point with your doctor. If you are uncomfortable then maybe you should be looking at “signing on” someone else. Do not wait to have a word with your boss only when it is time to negotiate for a salary raise, make sure you have a good professional relationship. Why would you not push your insurance company to give a slightly modified coverage so that you will in turn benefit from an occasional “medical check-up.” Medical Check-ups can be extremely controversial and I will avoid further comments on it no matter how tempting it may appear.

What is your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) regarding your health? I would say in most cases that will be mediocre. You may have an opportunity to seek the best care available in the world – you belong to a select few who may have earned it. Others may have to contend with what is available in their country and if you do not prompt those who may be assisting you to remain healthy then you may be short-changed.

Wont you rather “negotiate" in these situations?

1. Your doctor gives you medication that you think you are reacting to. It will be a good idea to return to the doctor and discuss your worries. If you are still not satisfied get a second opinion. Many men would rather skip their blood pressure medicines and suffer a stroke all because of the fear of erectile dysfunction. This is 2012, talk to your doctor!


2. You get information that as a diabetic you need to check your eyes, cholesterol, blood pressure, kidney function and a host of other tests periodically. Except for your blood pressure, you have not had any of the above done for close to two years. You SHOULD discuss this with your doctor immediately. Be polite but firm – Your Health Is Your Responsibility! If you have information from a reputable source, it is very likely your healthcare professional also has similar information and will listen to you.

3. You start work early and close late, too tired to even lift a finger. Talk to your boss, it may be time to have an onsite wellness programme even if it means staff need to contribute towards the payment. This is an investment worth sacrificing for. Go ahead and negotiate for this.

4. Did I tell you a few months ago that when you have anything edible in your house for a reasonable length of time, you will eventually eat it no matter how strong your will-power is? To be on the safe side, if it is not healthy and you do not want to eat it, keep it away from your home. If you are like me, then I can bet that at one time or the other you have gone round kitchen cupboards at an ungodly hour looking for something sweet to eat. Negotiate with yourself – leave your sweet tooth out of the home. You may occasionally have a bite of your favourite “sinful” recipe while on an outing.

5. If you know about Weight Watchers then you will agree with me that they negotiate all the time. If you have a fixed number of calories to consume in a week, you could “cheat” with pastries and other foods containing useless calories but remember you will then be saddled with extremely plain low-calorie salads for most of the week. Well if you do not want that scenario then watch what you shove into your mouth. Kenkey, banku and tilapia, fufu and kontomire soup dotted with snails may taste good but calculating the calories can turn out to be a nightmare. Why don’t we negotiate this way, take these carbohydrate laden meals only on days when you have exercised for at least one hour. If you feel too lazy to do that then it may be a good idea to leave that inviting meal alone.

6. Eating out is getting easier by the day. These days many restaurants have healthy meals on the menu and all you need to do is ask or even request for combinations that may not be on the menu. After all it’s your health!

Always remember that negotiation is no war. You may have different interests from your doctor or insurance company but you need each other. It is in the interest of all parties to reach an amicable solution that will ensure that you are all happy and will continue to patronize each other’s services.

Tackle the issues on board and do not personalize anything. If your insurance company will not pay for an investigation or medication, you may not need to call the manager names. Rather you need to be objective: discuss reasons why paying will benefit both parties and even the probability of increasing his business if other clients were aware that their coverage includes the product under discussion. You can only do this well enough if you have prepared adequately and armed yourself with objective information.

Time is always a constraint in many things including negotiation, but by preparing adequately and establishing a good rapport with your healthcare provider you can ace your doctor’s visit, or time with your boss requesting for additional health benefits. Go ahead and ask the questions you need to, make suggestions when necessary, you certainly have the right to take control of your health.


Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Moms’ Health Club


*Dr Essel is a medical doctor and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.

Thought for the week – “Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people”-Don Corleone “The Godfather”


1. Getting to Yes. Roger Fischer, William Ury, Bruce Patton

2. You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen.

Source: Essel, Kojo Cobba