I continue to get people asking me “where can I find a doctor or other medical provider that treats self-pay patients fairly,” by which they mean will offer them an honest, straightforward price to patients. Fortunately I also continue to get e-mails and calls from doctors and other providers telling me about their practice, or self-pay patients letting me know about those that they have found. Here’s a couple of recent ones:
Located in Fernandina Beach, Florida (which looks to be about 30+ miles north of Jacksonville), the husband and wife team of Drs. Sam and Catherine Featherston* offer a primary care practice that also provides cosmetic treatments. Both are trained internists, and it looks like they just opened, at least judging by the special they are currently running offering 25 percent off of all medical treatments for the month of September (one of the great things about cash-friendly practices is they tend to offer deals and specials that can be real bargains).
The prices look excellent too. A basic visit dealing with two chronic conditions or one new condition is $45, which probably equates to either a Level 2 or Level 3 visit (10 minutes and 15 minutes, respectively) which Healthcare Bluebooks show as an $82 and $137 fee, respectively for that area.
Walk-in visits are also $45, and phone or video consultations are the same price.
The “About Us” section of their web site provides a brief explanation of how the Featherstones have set up their practice, and it fits quite nicely into the self-pay world:
At Alliance Internal Medicine & Aesthetics, we believe that: health care does not have to be expensive; you shouldn’t have to wait for weeks or months to see your doctor; you shouldn’t have to sit for hours in a waiting room; you should be able to see your doctor and not an assistant; and you deserve to have a doctor who keeps in mind that most people are living on a budget and who will consider costs when prescribing medications, ordering tests, etc. We feel that governmental departments and managed health organizations have created a system where health care costs are now prohibitive and medical decision making is largely out of the hands of patients and physicians. We have decided to opt out of those systems in order to not be bound to their price plans and other bureaucratic restraints. This allows us to keep our costs down and we enjoy passing along those savings to you.
Self-pay patients in the north Jacksonville and Nassau County areas of northwest Florida can contact Alliance Internal Medicine & Aesthetics through their online contact form or call them at 904-206-9354. The office is located at 1001 Atlantic Avenue in Fernandina Beach.
I haven’t reported on a lot of doctors in the Northeast that have embraced self-pay patients, so I’m happy to be able to write up Gold Direct Care, a direct primary care practice located in Marblehead, Massachusetts, about fifteen miles northeast of Boston. The practice was started by Dr. Jeffrey Gold, apparently a native of the area, in February of this year. He explains on his web site why he opted for the direct primary care model:
When I made the decision to become a Family Practice Doctor, I had a vision of what I thought my practice would be like…it would be in a community similar to where I grew up; I would have personal relationships with all of my patients; I would be accessible to my patients when they need me; I would be able to spend as much time as I want with my patients; and the list goes on and on.
Over the course of the past couple of years, due to many factors, it became very clear to me that my vision for how I wanted to practice medicine was not coming to fruition; at least not in the dysfunction of the current healthcare system. I started to read about a movement in the world of primary care medicine called Direct Primary Care (DPC)…The more I read and the more research I did, it became obvious to me that the vision that I had for how I wanted to practice medicine- as well as the vision that I had for how my patients deserve to have me practice medicine- could be achieved by opening my own DPC practice. I truly believe that Direct Primary Care is a large part of the solution to the healthcare crisis in this country…
I am the first doctor in the state of Massachusetts to open such a practice, and I know it is the right thing to do for me, but most importantly for my patients.
As do most DPC’s, Dr. Gold offers free visits, same- or next-day appointments, and unlimited communications (phone, video, e-mail, etc.) for a monthly fee. The fees are adjusted for age, starting at $30 a month for those 21 and under, $50 for those 22-30, $75 for the 31 – 44 age group, and $90 for those between 45 and 65. He also offers membership to those age 65 and older, charging $125 a month. He also has posted on his site the discounted lab prices he can offer patients, such as an electrolyte panel for $5 that Healthcare Bluebook says has a “fair” price of $18 (meaning that’s what insurers typically pay) and a Vitamin B-12 test for $45 ($39 according to Healthcare Bluebook, so a little higher but not much).
His web site also notes he offers discount prescription drugs, details of which aren’t available but can offer huge savings. I recall being on a panel earlier this year in Vermont discussing self-pay health care and Dr. Josh Umbehr of Atlas M.D. in Wichita, Kansas, mentioned during his presentation that he was able to basically give away most generic medicines to his patients without having to charge them (it’s built into the monthly fee, obviously) because it was so cheap for him to get as doctor. I can’t recall the exact numbers he gave, but it was for Imitrex, a migraine medicine that I recognized because my wife used to take it. The name brand costs close to $400 for 9 doses and the generic version costs about $15 for nine doses according to GoodRx.com, Dr. Umbehr said he was able to buy a large bottle with 1000 doses for about $10. It literally would have cost him more to bill his patients $0.01 for each dose than to just give them away. If Dr. Gold is able to offer even remotely comparable savings on prescription drugs, the monthly fee could be the bargain of the year in the state of Massachusetts.
So, self-pay patients in the Boston area, or “fully insured” patients who aren’t terribly satisfied with third-party payer, take a look at Dr. Gold’s practice. He can be found at 123 Pleasant Street in Marblehead, or reached by phone at 781-842-3961 and e-mail at email@example.com.
*Somehow I managed to get the names wrong in the initial post, my apologies! It is Drs. Sam and Catherine Featherston, not sure why that was so difficult for me the first time around.