IN THIS ISSUE:
? Physicians Step Up to the Challenge of CD Health
? LACMA’s New President Has Bold Ideas
? Santa Monica Physicians Support Consumer Driven Health
? INDOC Physicians Blast Third Party Interference
? SimpleCare Written up in Associated Press
? AP Story Spawns Enormous Consumer Applause
? Joint Economic Committee To Hold Hearing on Cash Practices
Physicians Step Up to the Challenge of Consumer Driven Health
Now that consumers are gaining control over their own health care resources through programs like HRAs, HSAs, and FSAs, they will need a way to purchase services that make sense. That means price transparency, the ability to comparison shop, and the greater efficiency of paying at the time of service. In another example of the wonders of free markets, the physician community is stepping up to the challenge. These efforts have not been planned, or controlled, or mandated. Rather, they are an example of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.” Once a need is identified, people will respond to fill it.
LACMA’s New President Has Bold Ideas
After leaving the CDHCC conference in Las Vegas last week, I went on to Los Angeles for a number of physician meetings. We started out with a small dinner on the pier at Redondo Beach hosted by Tom LaGrelius, MD, where I got to meet the new president of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, Marcy Zwelling-Aamot, MD. Dr. Zwelling is a high-energy leader who is determined to shake up what has been a lumbering, sleepy bureaucracy and convert it into a powerful advocate for market-based health care.
Santa Monica Physicians Support Consumer Driven Health
The next day it was on to Santa Monica with Richard Taw, MD, for a luncheon meeting of the American Private Physicians Association (APPA), which styles itself as a Chamber of Commerce for the private physician. I did my “New Tools” talk for a group of about 35 physicians and office managers, many of whom are already in a cash-only mode, with the rest simply refusing to sign contracts with HMOs and PPOs. These folks couldn’t be more excited about the prospects of HSAs for their own patients.
INDOC Physicians Blast Third Party Interference
That evening we went back to Torrance for a dinner with more than 100 members of Independent Doctors of the South Bay (INDOC), the organization founded by Dr. LaGrelius in 1997. The audience was very lively and Tom had to shut off discussion during the Q&A to get the business of the dinner meeting done. Like APPA, INDOC is a big booster of HSAs and other forms of consumer driven health care arguing that “Third party interference between patient and doctor should have no place in the practice of medicine.” INDOC also has chapters in San Francisco, Sacramento, Orange County, and San Diego.
SimpleCare Written up in Associated Press
Once I got back from these talks, I discovered that the Associated Press featured an article by Rebecca Cook about SimpleCare, the organization founded by Vern Cherewatenko, MD in Seattle. The article, which was picked up by at least a dozen dailies, describes how SimpleCare represents a “growing number of physicians across the country who are dumping complicated insurance contracts in favor of simple cash payments.” The article also cited Dr. Shelley Giebel of Temple Texas, an Ob-Gyn who charges $140 for an hour-long check-up. The article says that “she would have to double her patient load to make ends meet if she relied on insurance.” But the article also cites “the experts,” who argue that “most people are content with monthly premiums and $10 co-pays; nine out of ten doctors contract with managed-care companies.”
AP Story Spawns Enormous Consumer Applause
Maybe so, but from the e-mails Dr. Cherewatenko has gotten, SimpleCare seems to be tapping into a hunger from consumers for more freedom. Here are some excerpts from the e-mails he has received:
? As a medical student, I hope your group becomes successful in starting a precedent for the rest of America’s doctors and patients. What is at stake here, is the future of healthcare. Once doctors and patients realize how patient friendly, financially sound, and practical your business model is…it will have a domino effect on the industry.
? I just wanted to take a moment to applaud what you’re doing in your attempt to inject some good sense back into the medical industry. I am a certified and licensed athletic trainer. I currently work mornings in a hospital-run outpatient rehab facility, and prior to that worked for a DME provider. I know first-hand just how much waste our current system of “insurance will cover it” creates. Of all the solutions bandied about to lower costs, yours is the only one that truly does so, instead of simply passing the costs on to some other place. More insurance isn’t the answer. Too much insurance is the problem as it is.
? I am truly overjoyed at the tried and proven method of paying for health care services by eliminating the mess handed us by the HMO’S and their greedy motives. The last time that I remember paying cash for medical services was in the 70’s when it was as simple as paying the receptionist, and, she could even be the nurse, for medical care that was par none. Then the Physician was remarkably competent, dedicated and totally committed to the job at hand.
? I recently read about your organization on Netscape and was very pleased to know physicians in Washington were taking their time back and spending it the way they wished… with patients! “No more middle men” is a terrific way to gain control over your office practice and deliver care to patients… and most patients understand that they need to take control of their own care.
? I’ve been paying cash to my dr. for years! My husband and I cannot afford health insurance so we don’t have a choice. I needed to see a specialist and when we called to make an appointment, they refused to see me because I DON’T have health insurance. We had the cash, but they still refused to see me.
? I was so glad to find out Simple Care exists–I read about it in an on-line news article–and I joined immediately, even tho there are no providers yet in NM. I almost cried with relief to find out there are still doctors who care about patients and so grateful to find medicine turning back to basic common sense care and cost.
? I am lucky that as a Canadian Physiotherapist I do not have to deal with the same managed care issues that exist in the U.S. The SimpleCare system sounds very familiar to how private practice Physiotherapists work in Canada. We charge the client up front $35 for a 25 minute session and then it’s up to them to get reimbursed through their own private health insurance. I have no red tape with these clients and the only paperwork involved is my daily charting.
? Unfortunately – my doctors and dentists do NOT give a discount for immediate cash – they charge me for cash double what they get reimbursed (eventually, with huge staff overheads) by insurance companies.
? I have been going to my Doctor in Austin Texas for over 10 years and he only accepts cash. What a deal — his charge is $40. I think I have the best care around.
? I just wanted to say thank you for what you are doing. I read about your movement on the internet and I salute you. Thanks again and keep the idea growing.
SOURCE: For more about SimpleCare go to: http://www.simplecare.com
Joint Economic Committee To Hold Hearing on Cash Practices
And Washington, DC is beginning to pay attention, too. The Joint Economic Committee of Congress will be holding a hearing on April 28 to explore the significance of this movement. The witness list isn’t complete yet, but two physicians who have been invited include Dr. Robert Berry of the PATMOS Clinic in Greenville, TN, and Dr. Alieta Eck of Piscataway, NJ.
SOURCE: To find out more, contact Dr. Berry at: email@example.com or visit http://www.emergiclinic.com.
And Dr. Eck at: EckMDs@aol.com or visit the Zarephath Health Center’s website at http://www.zhcenter.org. (This is a 501(c)3 charity that provides low cost or even free care to those in need.)
Please send all comments/questions directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Consumer Choice Matters” is a free weekly newsletter published by the Galen Institute, a not-for-profit public policy organization specializing in research and education on health policy. Visit our website at http://www.galen.org for more information.
If you wish to subscribe/unsubscribe or update your address, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.