As ObamaCare bears down on us, how do we, as consumers of medical services, avoid getting caught in the vicegrip of bureaucratic, politically controlled medicine? How do we find doctors motivated to help their patients maintain their long-term health—rather than to appease health bureaucrats and the insurance companies the government increasingly controls?
Josh Umber, a family-practice doctor working in Wichita, Kansas (whom I interviewed for the Fall TOS), offers his patients a way to purchase and use health services that is radically different from the practices found in most other doctors’ offices—and that will help patients escape the worst aspects of ObamaCare. And Umbehr is actively promoting his style of “concierge” medicine nationwide, offering a model he hopes will revolutionize medicine in the United States. How is Umbehr’s practice different?
Most general-care doctors see a large number of patients each day for short visits (sometimes only a few minutes), leave it too their nurses and physicians’ assistants to deliver most of the health services provided, and bill everything through insurance—which requires a large staff to process the mountains of paperwork and which, in many cases, involves insurance agents second-guessing a doctor’s work.
Umbehr limits his total patient load to six hundred patients, and, for a low monthly fee—starting at just $50 for adults—he will see patients as often as they like for meetings lasting as long as they need. He doesn’t accept insurance for any of his services—enabling him to keep only a single nurse on staff to support three doctors—and he provides many drugs and tests to his patients at cost. Such a practice enables Umbehr to remain focused solely on helping his patients optimize their long-term health—rather than on filing insurance claims with bureaucrats and government-controlled insurance agents looking over his shoulder.
I greatly enjoyed speaking with Umbehr; following are some of my favorite quotes of his.
Regarding his brand of concierge medicine:
Concierge medicine is a win-win-win-win model. Employers who sign up for a group plan are able to get their employees better care for less money; insurers are able to insure a healthier group of people with less risk and thus higher profit margins based on lower premiums; doctors are able to make more money while seeing fewer patients and providing better care; and patients are able to get a more predictable product at a better value and a lower cost.
ObamaCare is barreling down upon us, and it’s going to be expensive. It promises expensive insurance that covers most everything. . . . As the Massachusetts insurance laws illustrated, we can require insurance to cover everything, but then no one can afford the insurance. So even under the ObamaCare mandate, the most viable option for affordable insurance and care is catastrophic insurance and a direct primary care model like AtlasMD [Umbehr’s practice].
Many people may find it in their financial interests to absorb the ObamaCare penalties, get less-expensive, non-approved insurance, and sign up for an AtlasMD-style practice. Just because ObamaCare is coming down doesn’t mean you have to have ObamaCare-approved insurance. We do not have to be victims of ObamaCare. . . .
ObamaCare is driving physicians out of practice. We’re going to lose up to a third of our family-medicine workforce because of all the hassles and red tape of insurance. You want to see the system crumble? That’s how it could crumble. Not because more doctors are seeing fewer patients, but because more doctors are seeing no patients.
Regarding the ability of concierge doctors to meet their patients’ needs:
Patients want this. They want better care for less money. They want better value. They want more time with their doctors. They want quality and convenience and accessibility and all the things that we’re not offering to them right now. They want their doctors to answer the phone. They want their doctors to supply their medicine. They want their doctors to sit down and spend half an hour or an hour with them and not worry about what insurance is going to pay for or not pay for.