Thursday, March 16, 2017

Op-Ed: Real health care solutions available



Let us start talking about health care by getting a few things out of the way.

First, looking for government solutions to health care is a lost cause. We can quibble, but in the end, any plans coming out of D.C. are going to be based on special interests and political advantage. The second is the error of conflating health care with insurance. Health care insurance is not health care, any more than car insurance is car maintenance. To fix our system’s problems, we have to move away from treating health insurance as a cost-sharing plan for non-catastrophic, non-major medical care.

Real solutions are happening right now across Oklahoma and the U.S. as providers in several areas of care are stepping away from the fantasy pricing of the insurance-based system. A growing number of providers are offering transparent pricing and bundled care for their goods and services.Would you like to get effectively unlimited care as needed from your physician for $50-$100 a month? There is a growing number of physicians doing just this. It is a model called Direct Primary Care.

In this model, clients pay a monthly subscription fee. Routine care, even for things like stitches, are covered by the subscription. Most include the ability to contact the physician digitally or by phone with questions or concerns, which becomes a great convenience for clients. Many also include the ability to get needed medications, labs, and imaging without the normally bloated pricing, often for pennies on the dollar.

These savings alone, in a great many cases, are more than enough to cover the cost of the monthly subscription.

Honest and competitive pricing is being realized in other areas as well. Not long ago, I was looking to get X-rays for a client. A certain nonprofit quoted a $350 price tag, which included the radiologist’s report. At an imaging center not taking insurance, I was able to get the same service for $56. You see similar differences in pricing for MRI, CT, and other imaging.

Surgery is another area benefiting clients with price honesty and transparency.There are now state-of-the-art surgery centers in Oklahoma and across the U.S. that actually list their prices, and those prices are often 10-20 percent of the price charged in hospitals and other insurance-based systems. It isn’t rare for the prices at such centers to turn out to be less than the out-of-pocket portions for the same procedures done at locations playing the insurance game.

So, right now, there is a growing availability of care that costs less than many spend for coffee, internet, or a phone in a month. Honest, market-based pricing is bringing down costs, and making care more affordable and accessible. Though we have a long way to go, there is a health care revolution happening now, and it is being done by patients and providers.

For those interested, the Free Market Medical Association is a great source to find and reach out to the health care innovators and providers that are bringing real solutions to our communities.

Dr. Shannon Grimes is a chiropractor in Tahlequah, former chairman of the Cherokee County Republican Party, and current chairman of the Cherokee County Libertarian Party.

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