A small but growing number of doctors are offering patients a new option, to pay them with cash, debit or credit card in return for what is being called “concierge medicine”. In this model of practice, each patient for a small monthly fee will have access to services that doctors can provide at the office, such as, EKGs or stitches. The fee schedule will vary by age, for example, for children, $10 a month, for adults $50 for seniors $75.
In a June 11, 2013 article from CNN Money ,32 year old family doctor Doug Nunamaker switched to cash only in 2010 due to the hassles of the insurance paperwork being overwhelming. His office negotiated the price of out of office services for patients and was able to cut out the insurance middle man thereby saving patients money. For example, cholesterol screening is $3, versus the $90 fee the lab once billed to the patient’s insurance company.An MRI is $400 instead of the $2,000 bill it used to generate to the insurance company.
This model of providing patients with quality care for less money is a win-win situation for all. For most patients they save money if they are relatively in good health and do not have a costly pre-existing conditions. It would be wise to carry some type of high-deductible plan in the event of an emergency or serious illness.
The doctors who offer the service win by not having to employ a large staff to handle all the office paperwork. Under the old model,doctors would need to see more patients to cover the higher overhead of employing office staff to do their insurance billing. Since the insurance companies are paying doctors less for procedures, this is a losing proposition for physicians.
With the cash payment model, the doctor now has more time for quality patient care. In research for my book, Soul Service ( Balboa Press, 2013) www.soulservice.info ,the lack of time that a doctor has to spend with a patient often gives the sick patient a feeling that their doctor is uncaring. In the case of treating the terminal patient, this is especially disturbing. It is very important that the patient and his or her doctor work as part of a team to affect the best possible treatment plan and outcome. This means quality time spent with the patient and good communication skills. No doubt with the removal of the insurance billing resulting in less financial overhead to the physician, there could be more time for patient interaction and less worry and hassle around payment.
With such concern today about the high cost of medical spending and controlling costs, the cash based model of patient care should be considered by more physicians in the future as a viable model for reducing their costs while allowing them to provide compassionate, higher quality patient care.