In an effort to circumvent health insurance headaches, some doctors have switched to cash-only practices and are saving their patients big bucks in the process.
CNNMoney.com reports there are a small handful of physicians around the country who have set up membership-based programs that offer discounts on services to customers.
The programs are all over the board in price -- anywhere from $100 a year to $2,500 annually -- depending on patient load and the level of personal attention you want. It's a trend also known as "concierge medicine."
There are 3 tiers of fees that are emerging.
For several thousand dollars each year, you get same day appointments and the doctor may spend an hour with you instead of 4 minutes. For $1,200 to $1,700, you may get same day service, phone consults, and a free annual physical. The lowest tier is priced between $250 to $500 and gives you a less exclusive package of services.
Here's another benefit: By charging a membership fee, the doctors can then sell their various services to members at a deep discount.
"By cutting out the middleman, [one doctor] said he can get a cholesterol test done for $3, versus the $90 the lab company he works with once billed to insurance carriers," CNNMoney reports. "An MRI can be had for $400, compared to a typical billed rate of $2,000 or more."
Interestingly, this is all happening at a time when the rise of health care costs has gone into pause.
The actual cost of medical care fell for first time since Gerald R. Ford was president of the United States. This is unusual, but I hope this becomes the norm for our country's economic health.
And what's behind the slowdown in health care spending?
Two things, I believe. First, employers are switching to high deductible health plans where you're responsible for so many thousands of dollars upfront before the company picks up the tab. When that happens, you start to treat health care like a consumer and become more cost conscious. Second, generic drugs are on the rise, which keeps the cost of health care down.
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