Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In the face of a counter-productive law, Dr. actually doing something to improve healthcare


It's been pretty well-documented that we don't care much for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare. Use the word search function in the upper left-hand corner of this page and you'll see we've been railing against it for years. So, you may be thinking: "OK, tough guys. We get you aren't fans. Then what would you do to truly reform the system?"

In reality, we have expressed ways we believe our nation's health care system can be improved, i.e., better care at lower costs and they include items such as tort reform, allowing insurance policies to cross state lines and greater flexibility in choosing what gets covered in your health care plan; essentially a pick-and-choose Chinese menu method of putting together your health care plan (Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is proposing something similar for cable TV plans whereby you can "unbundle" your viewing selections so you aren't paying for channels that you never watch).

All these common sense solutions to improving health care in this country appear nowhere in ObamaCare. In fact, it's as if the law is moving in the opposite direction of what we laid out above.

A doctor in Portland, Maine is taking it upon himself to improve his own practice and by extension the quality and cost of the care he provides for his patient and his reform idea lies in the realm of pricing transparency.

From the Bangor Daily News:

Dr. Michael Ciampi took a step this spring that many of his fellow physicians would describe as radical.

The family physician stopped accepting all forms of health insurance. In early 2013, Ciampi sent a letter to his patients informing them that he would no longer accept any kind of health coverage, both private and government-sponsored. Given that he was now asking patients to pay for his services out of pocket, he posted his prices on the practice’s website.

The change took effect April 1.

Pricing transparency. Boom. And aside from a departure from the old and broke status quo, we fail to see what's so radical about it.

Back to the article:

Before the switch, Ciampi had about 2,000 patients. He lost several hundred, he said. Some patients with health coverage, faced with having to seek reimbursement themselves rather than through his office, bristled at the paperwork burden.

But the decision to do away with insurance allows Ciampi to practice medicine the way he sees fit, he said. Insurance companies no longer dictate how much he charges. He can offer discounts to patients struggling with their medical bills. He can make house calls.

“I’m freed up to do what I think is right for the patients,” Ciampi said. “If I’m providing them a service that they value, they can pay me, and we cut the insurance out as the middleman and cut out a lot of the expense.”

How much does a particular medical procedure like the MRI of a joint really cost? You don't know because the insurance companies set the rate. And these are the same insurance companies that have been given even more power under the new health care law. Again, the law is actually moving away from common sense reforms taken up by folks like Dr. Ciampi.

To the article, once more:

Even with the loss of some patients, Ciampi expects his practice to perform just as well financially, if not better, than before he ditched insurance. The new approach will likely attract new patients who are self-employed, lack insurance or have high-deductible plans, he said, because Ciampi has slashed his prices.

“I’ve been able to cut my prices in half because my overhead will be so much less,” he said.

Before, Ciampi charged $160 for an office visit with an existing patient facing one or more complicated health problems. Now, he charges $75.

Patients with an earache or strep throat can spend $300 at their local hospital emergency room, or promptly get an appointment at his office and pay $50, he said.

Ciampi collects payment at the end of the visit, freeing him of the time and costs associated with sending bills, he said.

That time is crucial to Ciampi. When his patients come to his office, they see him, not a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner, he said.

“If more doctors were able to do this, that would be real health care reform,” he said. “That’s when we’d see the cost of medicine truly go down.”

(italics, ours)

It's duly noted that it is the self-employed and previously un-insured who are going to get hit the hardest financially because of the new healthcare law.

By getting the health insurance industry out of the way and implementing pricing transparency, Dr. Ciampi is doing that which ObamaCare fails to deliver: strengthening the doctor/patient relationship while loweing the cost of healthcare.

Radical, indeed.


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