Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Medicaid, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Medical Practice Models, Medicare, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Price Tansparency, Quality, Uncategorized

G. Keith Smith, M.D. — Health “Coverage” as a Distraction


I think it is good to be alert to any discussions that are “downstream of a flawed premise.” Let me explain.

When I hear, for instance, that the “flat tax” is preferable to the current income tax, I think to myself that this is a discussion of the knife versus the axe, a conversation far downstream of one addressing government spending or the very legitimacy of denying someone their earnings. After all, victims don’t generally care what the mugger does with their money. They just resent being mugged and no discussion about whether the mugger used a knife or a gun will likely provide any solace.

Similarly, I would argue that arguing for everyone to have health “coverage” is far downstream of the more original problem: the cost of healthcare. To provide “coverage” for everyone in the current climate of gross overcharging primarily serves the interests of those who employ the “what can I get away with” method of medical pricing.

The fierce push back against true price transparency by the cronies in the medical industry makes more sense in this context, as price honesty denies them access to everyone’s blank checkbook as the health cronies are well aware.

Supporters of government-guaranteed “coverage” object with the following arguments.

First, coverage is equated with healthcare. While millions of Canadians streaming across the border to secure their health needs could be used to refute the idea that coverage is synonymous with care, this disconnect has become more apparent in this country. Each passing day reveals Medicaid and Medicare “coverage” to be a “black mark,” an actual obstacle to obtaining care, as these government programs and their associated rationing through price controls and hassles are creating the lines the central planners intended. Physicians are either dropping out of these programs altogether or they are limiting their exposure to patients with this “coverage.”

Another objection points to the relief from financial devastation that having “coverage” represents. Keep in mind that not only are well over half of the bankruptcies in this country medically related, but almost three quarters of those filing for medical bankruptcy have insurance. This points powerfully to cost as the root cause of medical economic ills.

Acknowledging this is a slippery slope for the objector, however, for no economic system better provides for resource allocation than the market and the cronies and their government pals know this as well as anyone.

The market is the only source of price deflation with simultaneous improvement in quality. This powerful competitive mechanism has brought affordability to countless products and services in all industries and has begun to bring rationality to health care pricing as more physicians and facilities honestly post their prices for all to see.

Rather than focus on “coverage,” which allows the cronies to continue their financial feeding frenzy, we should remain unalterably focused on cost. The competition unleashed will result in a medical price deflation the likes of which will cause even the most skeptical objector to re-evaluate the role of “coverage” in the provision of payment for health care.

This is no prediction. This is exactly what is happening here in Oklahoma where so many health professionals have embraced the same market discipline every other industry must endure. The reasonable prices and high quality of care, have had such a wide appeal that Oklahoma City has evolved into a medical tourist destination for many patients far from here, while simultaneously bringing savings in the millions of dollars to those who actually pay for healthcare, locally.

This is my answer to another objection from those who claim the inapplicability of market competition to health care.  Whether the focus on “coverage” is a deliberate distraction by the crony propaganda machine or a well-meaning but misguided attempt to provide better access to care, we must keep our eyes on the “price transparency ball.” The Oklahoma market is already harshly judging those attempting to avoid this gaze and I believe this trend will continue as long as we identify, challenge and reject conclusions downstream of their flawed premises.

Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Entrepreneurs, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Patient Safety, Patient-centered Care, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, Quality, Uncategorized

Transparent Pricing for Medical Emergencies | The Emergency Center

What the status quo apologists and the naysayers said was impossible, is a reality:

Emergency services with transparent pricing and NO surprise bills!

“Always staffed with board-certified physicians, ICU- and ER-trained nurses, X-ray technologists and helpful administrative personnel, The Emergency Center offers the same comprehensive emergency care and treatment as a hospital ER, without the wait. State-of-the-art CT, ultrasound, x-ray, and lab services on-site combined with compassionate care provides an unparalleled patient experience.

The Emergency Center and OnDEC Health have partnered together to offer direct contracts for emergency room visits, urgent and primary care, plus telemedicine. OnDEC Health’s innovative direct contracting opportunities save employers significant dollars on ER claims, while offering their members 24/7, no-wait access to premier concierge style freestanding ERs and more.”

Peyton Vooletich

Director of Business Development

https://www.theemergencycenter.com/fort-worth-er/

Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Entrepreneurs, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Patient Safety, Patient-centered Care, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, Quality, Uncategorized

Transparent Pricing for Medical Emergencies | The Emergency Center

What the status quo apologists and the naysayers said was impossible, is a reality:

Emergency services with transparent pricing and NO surprise bills!

“Always staffed with board-certified physicians, ICU- and ER-trained nurses, X-ray technologists and helpful administrative personnel, The Emergency Center offers the same comprehensive emergency care and treatment as a hospital ER, without the wait. State-of-the-art CT, ultrasound, x-ray, and lab services on-site combined with compassionate care provides an unparalleled patient experience.

The Emergency Center and OnDEC Health have partnered together to offer direct contracts for emergency room visits, urgent and primary care, plus telemedicine. OnDEC Health’s innovative direct contracting opportunities save employers significant dollars on ER claims, while offering their members 24/7, no-wait access to premier concierge style freestanding ERs and more.”

Peyton Vooletich

Director of Business Development

https://www.theemergencycenter.com/fort-worth-er/

Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Consumer-Driven Health Care, Defined Contribution Benefit Plans, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Economic Issues, Free-Market, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, primary care, Quality, Uncategorized

FORBES | Employers Could Slash Their Health Costs Overnight. So, Why Don’t They?

John C. Goodman

“I am often asked if the free market can work in health care. My quick reply is: That is the only thing that works. At least, it is the only thing that works well.

Show me a health care market where there is no Blue Cross, no Medicare and no employer. I’ll bet it’s a market that works a lot like the markets for other goods and services.

In Overcharged: Why Americans Pay Too Much for Health Care (Cato: 2018), law professors Charles Silver and David Hyman make this same point in spades.

After several decades of trying everything from managed care to value-based purchasing, employers need to sit up and take note. The authors say the only thing that really holds down costs is giving money to the employees and letting them buy their own health care. “There is no health care cost crisis in the retail sector,” they write, and there “never has been.”

Atlas MD in Wichita, Kansas, for example, provides just about every service you can get at a primary care doctor’s office for $50 to $75 a month for adults (depending on age) and $10 for a child. Doctors are available by phone or email 24/7. Drugs cost less than what Medicaid pays. Medical tests are cheap.  A cholesterol test is $3, a tiny fraction of the charge that the lab they deal with bills to insurers. An MRI scan costs $400 instead of the typical third party charge of $2,000.

What about expensive hospital care? That too can look like retail medicine if you know where to look. The Surgery Center of Oklahoma (SOC), founded by Drs. Keith Smith and Steve Lantier, posts prices for 112 common surgical procedures. They deal mostly in cash and they don’t take Medicare or Medicaid or negotiate prices with insurance companies. One of SOC’s competitors is Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. The contrast couldn’t be starker, as the authors note:

Integris charged $33,505 for a complex bilateral sinus procedure, which helps patients with chronic nasal infections. This bill covered only hospitalization; the fees for the surgeon and the anesthesiologist were extra. At SOC, the all-inclusive price for the same operation is $5,885. Not surprisingly, Integris’s bill was loaded with overcharges, including $360 for a steroid available at wholesale for just 75 cents, and $630 for three doses of a pain killer called fentanyl citrate, which altogether cost the hospital about $1.50.”

New developments in retail medicine are almost always the product of entrepreneurial thinking. Sometimes the entrepreneurs are medical doctors. Sometimes they are business types with a strong interest in eliminating the many inefficiencies in traditional health care.”

Source: Employers Could Slash Their Health Costs Overnight. So, Why Don’t They?

Posted in Access to healthcare, Economic Issues, Free-Market, Healthcare financing, Medical Costs, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Price Tansparency, Uncategorized

Deflate the Healthcare Bubble!

Deflate the Healthcare Bubble!

I recently spoke to a colleague who needs a cystoscopy for stone retrieval and/or stent placement.

Local hospital quote is $25,000 for just use of facility, not counting anesthesia & urologist’s fee; with estimated patient responsibility of $5,000.

@Surgery Center of Oklahoma same procedure is $3,600 INCLUDING anesthesia & surgeon’s fee! Surgery Center Of Oklahoma

Suggested she use the extra $1,400 to pay for her trip to OK City and still save a few hundred dollars!

Posted in Access to healthcare, Consumer-Driven Health Care, CPT billing, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Economic Issues, Employee Benefits, Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, Patient Choice, Patient-centered Care, primary care, Quality, The Triple Aim, Third-Party Free Practices, Uncategorized

DPC and Self-insured Employers: Lifestyle-friendly Care for the 21st Century

http://ushealthmedia.com/dpc-and-self-insured-employers-lifestyle-friendly-care-for-the-21st-century/

In a typical insurance-based practice, meaningful face-to-face time between doctor and patient is somewhere between 5-10 minutes. Interesting, but surprisingly, shorter visits tended to result in more prescriptions being written and less time trying to get to the root of clinical problems.  And prescribing is usually a poor surrogate for good counsel and reassurance.

“What do you get when you mix low overhead with high technology and wrap it around an excellent physician-patient relationship? You get an ideal medical practice – a practice model designed to enhance doctor-patient relationships, increase face-to-face time between doctors and patients, reduce physician workloads, instill patients with a sense of responsibility for their health and cut wasted dollars from the entire system.”

The quote above is NOT from a Direct pay doctor or advocate, even though it precisely describes the attributes of DPC.  The quote is from the American Association of Family Physicians: The Ideal Medical Practice Model: Improving Efficiency, Quality and the Doctor-Patient Relationship.  

Notice how many of the characteristics of the Ideal Medical Practice looks very similar to the characteristics of a typical Direct Primary Care practice.  The ability to provide exemplary service is a natural element that arises from Direct Primary Care and other direct-pay models.

This direct engagement, absent the complexities and barriers created by the third-party network billing apparatus, enables a level of lifestyle-friendly involvement that naturally leads to a more satisfactory patient-doctor relationship and potentially superior clinical outcomes.

It’s hard to argue with cheaper and better.

Source: DPC and Self-insured Employers: Lifestyle-friendly Care for the 21st Century

Posted in Access to healthcare, Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), Direct-Pay Practice Models, Employee Benefits, Employer Mandate, Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, Essential Benefits under the ACA, Health Insurance, Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA's), Healthcare financing, Individual Mandate, Policy Issues, Tax Policy, Uncategorized

Healthcare: What to Watch For

“…it is important for employers to be fully aware of what the regulations may impact them to safeguard against inadvertently putting themselves, or their employees, in an untenable situation.

It is important for an employer looking to offer an unconventional or untraditional benefit package to speak with an independent health plan attorney or CPA (not employed by the agency selling the program) regarding potential liability and compliance with federal and state laws regarding employer sponsored health plans.

Can your employee afford to reimburse the IRS for taxes not collected on an inappropriately structured HSA? Can your business afford a fine of $100 per day per employee for every day that the unqualified arrangement was offered? These are just some of the potential liabilities.”

http://ushealthmedia.com/healthcare-what-to-watch-for/

Posted in Access to healthcare, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Economic Issues, Employee Benefits, Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, Free-Market, Health Insurance, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, Price Tansparency, primary care, Self-Insured Companies, Self-Insured Plans, Uncategorized

DPC and Self-insured Employers: A Benefits Trifecta


By contracting with a Direct Primary Care practice and re-routing subsequent encounters away from the more expensive insurance-based protocols, Self-insured employers can utilize creative plan designs to cut costs and improve employee satisfaction. The savings can be substantial even after accounting for membership costs.

http://ushealthmedia.com/part-2-a-marriage-made-in-healthcare-heaven/