Author Topic: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything  (Read 5146 times)


  • Handlebar Stache
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Hi Mustachians, I needed to share a conversation I had with my parents today that left me bewildered and unhappy.

One of the benefits of my current job is that I, as a single unmarried woman, can add my parents to my health insurance plan for a small monthly fee, which is automatically deducted from my salary.

My parents are thus entitled to one free medical checkup (covering several standard tests) and one free dental checkup (with dental cleaning) per year. Additionally, the plan will cover a significant amount of medical expenses, in the event that one of them needs emergency hospitalization.

I repeat, these benefits cost my parents no money at all. I pay the premiums out of my own salary.

I gave them their health insurance cards and printed out a guide to using them, along with a list of accredited hospitals. One of those hospitals (which happens to be one of the best in the country) is located right across the street from my parents' office.

My parents have no other form of health insurance. Mom's in her late forties, while Dad's in his mid-fifties. They have not had any serious medical issues for several years, but they have been asking me for some years to add them as my dependents to my health insurance. This wasn't possible at my previous job, but I did it as soon as I qualified for it at my current position.

I gave them all the necessary documents and info about these benefits in January 2014. Fast forward to September 2014, and they still haven't gotten around to visiting either a doctor OR a dentist. Even though they made an appointment for my little sister to visit the dentist today. Please note that my sister is NOT covered by insurance. They were perfectly willing to drive her to the dentist and pay out of pocket to have her teeth cleaned, but for some reason, they didn't schedule their own completely free dental cleaning on the same day.

So I asked them, directly, why. Because I just didn't get it. I couldn't see the logic. Why would they pass up a perfectly good chance, a perfectly FREE chance, to get their teeth checked too? And why, after nine months, hadn't they made an appointment to get all those other free blood/urine/fecal/etc. tests too?

Their answer? "We don't want to know if something's wrong with us. Doctors will only give us bad news. We prefer not to know."

I've known about their aversion to doctors for a long time now. But I was still surprised by their flat out "No." I tried to reason it out with them, but was rewarded with the following gems (translated from the original Filipino). Please note that at no point in the coversation did I call them names or make threats. I admit to raising my voice at some point, but I did not shout.

Some of the things my parents said during the conversation:

"We don't want any checkups. We're only interested in the (X amount of money) that the insurance will pay for once we're actually hospitalized."

"Yes, it's illogical to not want to see a doctor, but we don't want to do it."

"Call us duwag (cowardly), we still won't do it." (I did not call them any names...)

"If we get seriously sick, you don't need to worry about us. We're letting you know, as early as now, that you don't need to pay for our medical expenses. You don't need to hesitate to pull the plug on the life support."

Some of the things I said in return:

"Why do you have to wait for a major medical issue before seeing a doctor? Why not find out NOW if you have minor medical issues, BEFORE they become major?"

"You may not like knowing what health problems you have, but the knowledge is free. You have the opportunity to get this information for free. You don't need to pay anything."

"I don't mind paying for the insurance if you're going to use it. The money is not important to me. But if you're not going to use it, I'm not going to continue paying for it."

As you can see, the conversation escalated pretty fast. And it all started with a simple question about scheduling their dental cleaning at the same time as my sister's.

I didn't come to any kind of agreement with my parents on this. My visit ended on a cordial, if strained, note. They still insisted on driving me home through heavy rain. I still kissed both of them goodbye, as I have ever since I was a child.

I know that I cannot force them to do something they cannot do. At the end of our conversation, when it was clear that they would not budge from their position, I sighed and said, "Well, it's your choice. I can't force you to do it. I guess it boils down to a fundamental difference in our values. I, personally, would want to know if I had a medical issue. I've always believed that it's better to know if there's a problem, so I can do something about it, rather than not know about the problem at all. I can't do anything if you don't want to have a checkup."

Their final word on the matter: "You're right. You can't do anything if we don't want to do it."

I know I have to let this go. Their attitude towards their health, which drives me nuts, is one of the reasons why I moved out of the family home, in a culture where adult children don't usually move out until marriage.

Still, their behavior bothers me enormously. Why are my parents so defensive about this?

I am trying my best to understand their point of view but I am at a dead end.

Any insights are appreciated.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2014, 10:11:26 AM »
I wouldn't do what your parents are doing, but they do have a certain, defensible logic.  They want insurance for catastrophic problems requiring hospital stays. They don't want it to get blood tests that tell them to eat less salt and exercise. 

If I were you, I would accept it and move on.  You are right and they are wrong, but why not just let them make their own decisions?   


  • Guest
Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2014, 10:40:09 AM »
My brother is similar.  He also has insurance, and also refuses to use it.  He pretty obviously has some health problems that are going to be a serious problem down the line, but he doesn't want to know.  I think it is not all that uncommon, unfortunately.  Could you set it up so that they have only a high deductible insurance?  I know it is not ideal.  These are people you love, and watching them do something stupid is hard, but in the end we don't have much say in the choices of the people around us.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2014, 11:11:15 AM »
Side note, I am a nurse.

What most people like your parents fail to realize is that by not finding out some of the things wrong with them now, they will cause huge problems later. And it won't be a matter of just "pulling the plug", it will be a matter of living with a debilitating condition.

Let's take for example, high blood pressure. Yes you will go on medication for this, it sucks but that is how it is treated. It will be covered by insurance and cost very little out of pocket. But if left untreated can eventually lead to a stroke. Many strokes don't just kill you, they leave you unable to use half of your body, speak or eat properly for the rest of your life.

People think the only options are take meds or something kills you eventually and you live blissfully unaware until this happens. The third option and the most common is that you live in pain and with significant debilitation for the rest of your life.

They need to go see the doctor to avoid disability in later life.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2014, 11:57:03 AM »
A cousin was found unconscious from unmanaged diabetes. He subsequently could no longer talk or swallow & had to be in a nursing home for almost 2 years before pneumonia finally killed him. His adult children had to sell his house & all possessions to help pay for his care. In this case, "life support" was not an option. What a miserable way to exist, & so preventable.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2014, 12:00:38 PM »
The OP clearly has the right argument.  The issue is that she has no say in whether the parents go to see doctor's regularly.  Anecdotal evidence of why it would be good for the parents to see doctors doesn't change that fundamental fact. 


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2014, 12:09:07 PM »
I have to agree, if parents refuse to believe that dying is not the worst that can happen.
At this point, I'd recommend seeing if there was any catastrophic coverage available so not to be exposed to huge medical or nursing care bills, & cancel paying for the exam insurance.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2014, 08:34:08 PM »
Cancel their dental next open enrollment if they're not going to use it. You could save the premiums and self-insurance against any major dental work they might need, but dental insurance is of questionable benefit even if you DO get exams.

If it makes you feel any better, evidence is mounting that most "routine" medical testing can do more harm than good. That said, it's important to have a relationship with a doctor. And you are holding the purse strings here. If you want to make paying for their insurance conditional on their seeing a doctor, you have every right to do so. If they want you to butt out of their health, they have every right to find their own insurance or go without.

It sounds like a really frustrating situation--my sympathies.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2014, 05:06:39 PM »
Personally, I am a doctor-phobe. I really hate going to the doctor, although I do force myself to do it now. I think that part of what may be going on here is the hard-wired human tendency to reject pain in the short-term even if taking action is truly beneficial in the long term. (there is a term for it, I forget what exactly.)

Here are some of the things that may be in the way of dr. visits...

1. Finding drs and making appointments can be a really miserable experience (I know you are not in the US, so unsure how your system works--hopefully it is easier!). A good dr. can literally be the difference between life and death, and certainly between an unpleasant and pleasant treatment situation but there's not a lot of information out there to help you find Dr. Right, which tends to be paralyzing.

2. You are guaranteed to have to go through some tests and exams that are embarrassing, uncomfortable, and maybe even painful. Odds are that these tests won't find anything anyway, so all that is for nothing.

3. Maybe the dr. will find something suspicious. Then you will have to go through a lot more uncomfortable, embarrassing, time-consuming tests along with the worry that it could be really serious...but odds are it will turn out to be nothing.

4. The dr. will probably tell you something you don't want to hear, perhaps something that you already know and feel guilty about...that you should lose weight, change your diet, get more exercise etc. There is no guarantee that making these uncomfortable changes will do anything to prevent future medical problems.

5. The Dr. may find something serious that cannot be treated effectively, or for which the cure is worse than the disease. Then you just have something to live with that you can't do anything about.

6. The chance that the dr. will find something serious which he/she can actually do something is not all that large in contrast to all the other scenarios.

Please understand that I am not arguing that any of these arguments make logical sense in comparison to the chance that going to the dr. will catch something serious or (even better) incipient--in your parents' case, at no financial cost. But there is a lot of short-term, definite discomfort competing against abstract potential long-term gain and a lot of people just don't process that very well.

What finally worked for me was that I started working with an older population (my previous co-workers had been very young and healthy) and I started hearing about all these medical issues that they and their family members were having. That was what really scared me enough to get through the original hurdles of medical visits and now that I have established practitioners who send me reminders I am much better about getting to the doctor. So time may work where persuasion does not, as your parents' friends start developing the medical problems that come with age. Right now, the best thing you can do is back off and let them know the insurance is there if they need it.

Good luck...


  • Stubble
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2014, 01:21:32 PM »
I would say, first of all, back off for now. Don't even mention it for at least a month, and get it off your mind for a bit (sure, it'd be great if they went, but it's not a couple of months that will change much).

You're not going to win the argument by arguing or threatening them, even if you're right, and it feels bad. First let them cool off, this was the first conversation, and now they know what you want, and it might get them thinking. In the future maybe try to bring it up again without pushing them too much, or maybe propose that they get only some simple exam initially that would help. Try to make it about goals (your shared goal for example for them to be able to help with grandchildren when there will be some, and to enjoy them at that moment. or their goal not to suffer or reduce their quality of life), and try to ask what it would take for them to try it just once. Take a gradual approach. Maybe single out one of them and convince him/her first.

Best of luck!


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Parents Refuse To Visit A Doctor, Even When Insurance Covers Everything
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2014, 03:11:30 PM »
I would approach it by asking them to do it for my sake. It works for a lot of things, depending on the personality of your parents (mine would pretty much do anything if I asked). "I know you don't want to, but it would mean a lot to me to just make sure the checkup turns out alright. I'll drive you there/talk to the doc myself/do anything I can to make it easier."