I’ve previously featured Dr. Robert Haar and Regency Healthcare, an orthopedic surgical facility in New York City that has gone cash-only. Finding primary care doctors who are friendly to self-pay patients can be enough of a challenge, and tracking down hospitals and surgical facilities that post real prices for patients paying for treatment out of their own pockets is even more difficult.
That’s why it’s so important for self-pay patients that places like Regency Healthcare and the Surgery Center of Oklahoma serve as models for other doctors considering opting out of the third-party payer insurance system, or at least becoming cash-friendly by posting real prices.
So I was pleased to see that Dr. Haar and Regency Healthcare were featured recently in Orthopedics This Week, which bills itself as the most widely read publication in the orthopedics industry. Here’s some excerpts from the article:
After about three decades of fencing with insurers, reading The New York Times accuse physicians of putting personal gains ahead of patient welfare and working more as an administrator than as a physician, Dr. Robert Haar has had enough.
He’s chucking insurance over the side.
Effective this year, Dr. Haar’s Regency Healthcare Clinic is going all cash, all transparent, and all patient-focused.
No more army of administrative assistants filling out forms and fighting with insurance companies to get paid…
As Dr. Haar sees it, “When a patient looks online or tries to call a hospital purchase center and ask ‘what’s the charge’ they’ll find that a lot of these hospital staff don’t know. They don’t know what they’d charge for cash, they don’t know what the surgeon’s going to charge and they don’t even know what the anesthesiologist would charge. When a patient calls the average surgery center or hospital, they find that the staff is clueless. The patient hears ‘we’ll get back to you’. And when they get back to the patient, it’s always sticker shock…”
“As we all know” said Dr. Haar, “there are millions of people who are un-insured or work for self-funded companies. There is a growing need for providers and facilities that provide transparent pricing where patients know what exactly a price for a procedure is. And that is a global or bundle payment. There are no hidden fees. No surprises at the end of the episode of care. They know exactly what they are paying for up front. Without the administrative hassle, overhead and layers of bureaucracy that are usually commensurate with insurance based care.”
…Regency offers a full range of orthopedic procedures including knee, shoulder, foot and ankle, spine, hand and arm…
In terms of pricing, Dr. Haar is competitive with his nearby hospitals (which includes Hospital for Special Surgery). In fact, says Dr. Haar, “We’re more competitive than the average ambulatory surgery center because our costs are lower! We don’t have the administrative load that these other providers do. We don’t have all these administrators in $4,000 suits in burled wood offices. I never saw a CEO from Aetna or Cigna or UnitedHealth[care] who wasn’t running around in custom tailored, thousand dollar suits.”
On Dr. Haar’s website is the following statement: “We make every effort to decrease the cost of your medical care. Therefore, we request payment arrangements for all office services at the time they are rendered unless prior arrangements have been made. We accept cash, checks, MasterCard, and American Express for your convenience.”
…The all cash, all transparent approach “really doesn’t change the type of patients I’m seeing although a sizeable number are un-insured for whatever reason. Either their employers don’t offer insurance or they are self-employed or they are small businesses or they can’t or don’t want to buy insurance. Often they think they’re healthy but all of a sudden they have an injury or a condition develops where they need a procedure. So there are very few alternative for these sorts of individuals.”
…Dr. Haar’s leap into a cash-based practice may well be the trend of the future. Notably, it is being driven by the physician.
Orthopedics This Week featuring Dr. Haar’s cash-only surgical facility can only help to spread the idea to more doctors that there is a market for facilities that cater to self-pay patients, which is good news. With luck this type of practice will spread, offering more options to patients who pay directly for their own care.