The next revolution in healthcare may seem like a return to a simpler time.
Remember cash? People used to use it instead of plastic. And doctors used to accept it instead of insurance plans. Now something is afoot that might change medical care as we know it.
According to a recent Associated Press (AP) report, more and more doctors are returning to a cash-only payment plan.
The report features Dr. Vern Cherewatenko, a Seattle MD who switched from insurance plans to cash about six years ago. He charges a flat rate of $50 for each visit. Before he changed to the cash system, he charged almost $80 for a visit. From that he would receive just over $40 from the insurance company, but the processing of the insurance paperwork was costing about $20 per visit.
But now that Dr. C. has gone the way of cash, his current accounts receivable is zero. And with all the headaches of dealing with insurance providers out of the way, he says he feels like a real doctor again.
This system is good for patients too. To start with, it provides an economical way to access healthcare for those who don’t have insurance. But more important is the fact that doctors don’t have to overload their schedules with patients in order to meet their operating costs. The result: Doctors can spend more time with each individual patient.
Could this trend catch on? If Dr. Cherewatenko has his way it will. He’s started an organization called SimpleCare to help encourage cash-only healthcare. Using the SimpleCare web site (simplecare.com) patients can locate cash-only doctors, and doctors can find out more about how to convert to the new system.
Arthur Caplan – a medical ethicist – told AP that this trend is a “terrible indictment” of the current healthcare system, which he describes as “collapsing” under the weight of insurance and managed care bureaucratic paperwork.
There’s revolution in the air.
“Doctors Switching to Cash-Only Payments” Associated Press, 4/5/04, cnn.com