It's no secret that America's healthcare system is broken, and Dr. Michael Ciampi, took a radical step to make his practice more sustainable and independent of overreaching insurance companies.
As of April 1, the Maine family physician stopped accepting all forms of health insurance
, both private and government-sponsored, and then slashed his prices drastically. All of his services are posted on his website.
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“It’s been almost unanimous that patients have expressed understanding at why I’m doing what I’m doing, although I’ve had many people leave the practice because they want to be covered by insurance, which is understandable,” Ciampi told the Bangor Daily News.
Before he made the switch, Ciampi had about 2,000 patients. He has lost several hundred over the last two months. Many of his former patients left to avoid dealing piles of reimbursement paperwork from health insurers.
Despite having a smaller patient base, Ciampi has been thriving. Without insurance companies, he has the freedom to practice medicine as he sees fit, charging customers the appropriately and offering discounts to patients struggling with their medical bills. He can also make house calls.
“I’m freed up to do what I think is right for the patients,” Ciampi said. “If I’m providing them a service that they value, they can pay me, and we cut the insurance out as the middleman and cut out a lot of the expense.”
Ciampi said he expects his practice to perform just as well financially, if not better, than before he stopped accepting insurance. There's a lot less wasteful spending in his practice now, and the approach will likely attract new patients who are self-employed, lack insurance, or have high-deductible plans, because his prices are far lower than the cost of out-of-pocket health insurance plans, he told the Bangor Daily News.
“I’ve been able to cut my prices in half because my overhead will be so much less,” he said.
Before, Ciampi charged $160 for an office visit with a patient facing one or more complicated health problems. Now, he charges $75. Patients with an ear ache or strep throat can spend $300 at their local hospital emergency room, or promptly get an appointment at his office and pay $50, he said.
Ciampi collects payment at the end of the visit, freeing him of the time and costs associated with sending bills, he said. And rather than deal with a receptionist or a nurse practitioner when they arrive to the office, patients see Ciampi right away.
Ciampi expects more and more doctors, fed up with insurance companies encroaching on their businesses, will follow his lead with own business models. For example, some may choose to run “concierge practices” in which patients pay to keep a doctor on retainer, he said.
"If more doctors were able to do this, that would be real health care reform...that's when we'd see the cost of medicine truly go down," Ciampi said.
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