Chuck Muth: Coming soon: Medical center country clubs
For the Nevada Appeal
In your wildest dreams, did you ever think choosing your family doctor would be like joining a country club?
Well, welcome to Health Care 2010. Not only could your favorite doctor soon become as exclusive as a country club, patient “memberships” could price the Average Joe out of the market even if you have full medical insurance. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again.
“It is with mixed emotions that we write this letter about an important change in how we will practice medicine,” my family doctor and his partner wrote in a letter to patients last month. “Each year insurance reimbursement decreases while insurance company interference with medical care decisions increases. Patients have noticed that wait times are longer, staff more harried, and time spent with the doctor is often only a few minutes. We cannot continue this way and still provide the highest quality of care.”
Therefore, effective May 1, my doctor’s medical practice will essentially become a private membership club.
“Patients will be asked for a yearly fee of $1,500 ($650 for children under 18 years old),” my doctor explains. Office visits will cost a flat $40 per visit, but they’ll no longer “have contracts with (non-Medicare) private insurers.”
So even if you have a private health insurance policy you will no longer be able to retain this doctor’s services unless you can pony up the annual membership fee.
For a family of five like mine, that alone would be almost $5,000 a year. And that doesn’t even include the major medical, hospitalization and specialist insurance I’d still have to carry.
Of course, membership does have its privileges. Patients are being promised same-day appointments, minimal wait time, extended visits with the doctor, 24/7 doctor cell phone access, and e-mail access for non-urgent questions.
“We anticipate seeing fewer patients per day, giving us plenty of time” with those who can afford the membership fee, my doctor explains, regrettably acknowledging “that not all of our current patients will want, or be able to afford, this new level of service.”
Now, you’ll note that I haven’t disclosed my doctor’s name. That’s because I’m not mad at him whatsoever. It’s still a free market and he’s free to conduct his business as he sees fit.
No, it’s the health insurance industry, the stinking trial lawyers and stupid unfunded government mandates that brought this about that really burns me up.
But have no fear, Obama/Reid/Pelosi-Care could soon be here.
I think I’m gonna be sick. If only I still had a doctor.
• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization. He may be reached at chuck@citizen