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The New Phrase is: “Insurance Free Medicine”

on February 5th, 2010 | Filed under Optoblog

I think we should all consider going the route of “insurance free medicine.”
From guest blogger Dr. Mintz at Kevin, MD:

Thus, I think a term that I would like to propose for use in further discussions of newer ways of practicing primary care is “insurance free medicine.” The term “insurance free medicine” captures the essence of the newer models of primary care. Patients have certainly seen their premiums and deductibles increase and can probably relate quite well to reasons why a doctor would not accept insurance.

Insurance free primary care practices could certainly adopt retainer membership fees and promote improved access, but eliminating terms like “boutique,” “concierge,” and “cash only” might help eliminate the notion that primary medical care without insurance is somehow tainted or only for the super-wealthy. Previously, I discussed that without substantial changes, primary care will soon go the way of psychiatry in that patients who use their insurance to see a psychiatrist get one kind of care (very brief visits, mostly management by a non-physician) and those who pay their psychiatrist out-of-pocket get the kind of care that we see in TV and the movies.

With more frequent use of the term “insurance free medicine,” patients might start realizing that if they continue to pay their primary physician using their health care insurance, they should expect even briefer visits, longer waits to get in, seeing non-physicians, and greater delays getting a return phone call or results back.

I calculated the other day that I spent about $2000 a year to be set up and able to bill insurance. Further, I spent all that time and money for about 538 patients, or close to one-fourth of my patients per year. Now that Walmart no longer bills many vision plans for me, both numbers will go up, and so will my accounts receivable. In anticipation of this, my fee went up by $5 per patient at the beginning of the year.

I would lower my price if we could all convince the general public that routine medical office visits should be paid out of pocket. Your car insurance doesn’t pay for oil changes.

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