How much is health care worth to you?

Published 12:39 am Sunday, September 7, 2014

Any sane person who has ever tried to make sense of medical billing practices will quickly be scratching their heads in frustration.

The lack of logic that underpins the complex system of billing, reimbursement, insurance co-pays and rate adjustments is truly baffling to most of us.

Fortunately for most relatively healthy people, these frustrating moments tend to be few and far between.

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The systems are so complex that at times the errors can truly be laughable. A good friend couldn’t help but laugh when reviewing the hospital bill on the delivery of their child. Everything looked pretty normal — albeit it expensive — until his eyes got down to the line item referring to the C-section.

But it wasn’t the billed amount that made him pause and ultimately chuckle; it was the simple fact that his wife hadn’t actually had a C-section.

Now, imagine if your life involved dealing with all of the rules, regulations and such. Frustration would be an understatement.

That sentiment, that frustration over insurance companies and government regulators meddling in his work, led Natchez internist Dr. Ken Stubbs to effectively yell, “Uncle,” last week.

Stubbs began meeting with groups of his patients to let them know of his desire to end all of the frustration and foolishness starting in January.

Stubbs plans to join a growing number of American physicians who are practicing what some refer to as concierge medicine.

Under such a system, Stubbs’ patients will pay him an annual fee — or monthly installments — to effectively have full access to him.

Think of it as a membership program for your health care.

The benefits to both the physician and the patient seem pretty clear.

Rather than have to wait days or weeks to get an appointment — which is a nationwide problem that will worsen as more Americans gain some level of insurance coverage — members would get either same-day or next-day appointments.

In addition, under Stubbs’ plan, he suggested all of his member/patients will have his cell phone, thus he’s available 24-7 to them.

Beyond specialist fees, special lab work and hospital charges, a person could know with certainty what their health care costs would be for the year — no more co-pays or additional charges.

From Stubbs’ perspective, gone would be the daily headache of making certain the billing and reimbursement matters are properly tended.

Also gone would be questions from insurance providers attempting to determine how the physician made decisions about care provided and whether or not it was medically merited.

Perhaps more important, in a nation that is increasingly trying to insure more and more Americans causing the medical community to burst at the seams, Stubbs’ plan is to slow down and make his practice more measured, more like doctors of long ago.

In his first meeting with patients to explain the changes, Stubbs suggested he hoped to have the flexibility to be able to spend up to an hour and a half with each patient, if necessary.

For most people, such detailed time with their physician would be unheard of.

How many of us have felt as if our physician popped in and out of the examination room so fast your head was spinning?

Or how many people have been infuriated to be told the next available appointment time is two weeks away, when you’re sick now?

The question is: How much is avoiding that worth to you?


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or