Think you’re nearing your breaking point with all of the confusion surrounding Obama Care? Consider how your doctor feels.
Many doctors around the nation are coming to simultaneous realizations: Obama Care is not going to work for them. The declining payments, massive red tape and too many restrictions continue to grow and they say they’ve had a bellyful and they’re going all cash. For consumers/patients, this could be a double edged sword. The medical experts agree the quality of healthcare would be improved outside the confines of the president’s solution for healthcare. The problem comes in with the cash only dynamic.
Millions of Americans can’t afford to go to a doctor right now even with insurance. It’s going to be an uphill battle for those doctors who can’t be versatile enough to allow for partial payments or monthly payment plans.
Along with the better quality of healthcare, doctors say they’re afforded the opportunity to spend more time with their patients. Those opposed to the new “all cash” (which includes credit card payments and even debit card payments for most) mindset say doctors will only be able to service the wealthiest of patients. The benefits for blue collar or other middle class families are difficult to discern this early, but it could present big problems.
Swiping a Credit Card instead of an Insurance Card
Doctors who have already made the switch say they’ve been able to thin their staff, too, since there’s no need to comb through the massive healthcare law to ensure compliance,
My staff is trained in how to run a patient’s credit card through the swipe machine instead of collecting information from an insurance card,
explained one Florida physician. The elimination of a bulging overhead means doctors can rethink their costs to patients. But is it enough to bridge the difference in what middle class families can cover?
It could be that many doctors return to the system that allows monthly payments, via cash, check or credit card, a practice most had abandoned in recent years. After all, most insurance companies have already begun to eliminate many of the allowed charges that they would pay, which meant physicians had no choice but to allow patients to pay later. One physician in Kansas said,
The paperwork, the hassles, it just got to be overwhelming…we knew that we had to find a better way to practice.
All Inclusive Plans
Meanwhile, other physicians say they’re working on membership plans, sort of a concierge service where a patient pays a flat monthly fee to have unlimited access to both the physicians and any of the services that can be provided in the office. That includes stitches, EKGs, ultrasounds and more otherwise costly services.
The fees will vary, based on the age of the patient. For instance, some of the rate plans include $10 a month for children, $50 for patients up to the age of 44 or 45 and then $100 for those older than 45 and senior citizens. While that might sound a bit expensive, especially if you’re not one to go to the doctor unless there’s no other option, consider the fact that they’re able to work with service providers while renegotiating those fees. Many are getting cholesterol tests for less than $5. In most regions of the country, the out of pocket expense for patients having their cholesterol checked is around $90.
MRIs can sometimes be performed in a doctor’s office and instead of the $2000 price tag, those only cost $400 (which are included as part of the flat rate program). There’s no middleman, no insurance laws that require additional staff and no third party billing companies sharing in the profits. It’s a true “back to the basics” of years past. Patients can have credit card numbers on file and the billing department simply bills that credit card each month. Patient care is between the patient and his physician. It’s plain and simple a better business model, according to many.
Major Medical Policies Still Advised
Aside from the flat rate monthly payments, the only other expense a doctor might encourage his patients to consider are long term policies. These are generally low cost plans anyway, especially if the insurance company will make allowances for an enrollment in the payment plan that could mean better access to preventative health measures that prevents major illnesses.
Many doctors say their self employed patients or those who either own or work for smaller companies far prefer the monthly fee. It’s also beginning to follow a new trend that includes an employer paying a portion of that monthly fee. That’s a model that is still in its infancy; however, it’s catching on.
Imagine your family doctor only having, say, 200 patients on his rosters compared to the average 1,700 most have. It could really streamline medicine. The doctor explaining the better options insists his
professional life is better than expected, my family life and personal time is better than expected and…this is everything I wanted out of family medicine.
Healthcare for the Future
So is this the way of healthcare in the future? Probably, say the experts. As mentioned, some have already adopted these other payment dynamics, but the numbers are still low. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians say only 4 percent of doctors are incorporating the new payment plan model. Still, in 2011, there was only 1 percent of doctors who offered these services. So far in 2013, the number is at 6 percent and growing. Clearly, it’s a method that has a definitive place in our Obama-Care-fearing society.
A Nevada physician explains it best. Kevin Peterson, whose medical practice is in Las Vegas, hasn’t accepted insurance since 2005,
The insurance industry took over my practice,
They were telling me what procedures I could do, who I could treat – I basically became their employee.
Doing things his way, he’s able to provide patients a $5,000 hernia operation – and that includes anesthesia, time spent in the hospital for recovery and any follow up visits. He has partnerships with area anesthesiologists and hospitals. The cost savings for the patient? One third of what an insurance covered patient pays.
My practice at this point is the best it’s been in my 26-year career,
he said. “By far.”
Would you consider a concierge type relationship with your family physician? Share your thoughts with us.