While they’re at it, consider other health care options

Monday, March 27, 2017

With the GOP dropping its effort to repeal and replace Obamacare Friday, American healthcare has an uncertain future.

Even before the Affordable Care Act was passed, some doctors ditched the insurance industry completely, signing patients up to a type of membership medicine that gave them more time with each patient while giving those patients better access.

Going by concierge medicine or other names, it eliminates worry over co-pay, premiums, in- or out-network, while allowing unlimited visits, urgent care and better access to the doctor.

By paying a membership like they might to a gym, patients are guaranteed same-day or next-day appointments with no co-pay. Physicians limit their membership to 500 or 600 patients, compared to the traditional family practice physician who sees 2,000 to 4,000 for 15 minutes each.

Rather than being paid for services they perform on a sick patient, physicians have an incentive to keep their patients healthy through preventive care and to not order unnecessary tests.

Concierge physicians have fewer hospital admissions and provide better care to prevent chronic conditions, like hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, which are costly to treat.

Insurance is still used to cover outside lab tests, X-rays, visits to specialists and hospitalizations.

Critics worry that membership medicine, costing from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars a year, could create a two-tiered health system for those would could and couldn’t afford a membership — and Medicaid probably isn’t accepted.

They also fear that a shift to concierge medicine would steer more physicians away from primary care, which has already dropped from 70 percent of doctors 50 years ago, to 30 percent of them today.

Climbing healthcare costs and accessibility troubles were what lead Congress to adopt Obamacare in the first place, and the individual mandate and rising costs were what helped elect Donald Trump president and give the Republican Party control of the Senate and House.

Rather than implement another half-baked plan for universal health care, our leaders should consider all the options and implement those that will lead to long-term solutions.

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