A doctor in South Portland, Maine, says his private practice stopped accepting health insurance this year because Obamacare regulations are so complicated small practices can't comply.
As of April 1, Dr. Michael Ciampi’s practice stopped accepting private and government-sponsored insurance. He said he received “several pages a week” of new regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and was unable to keep up.
“We’re asking people to pay at the time of service, just like you would pay at your garage, your attorney, your plumber,” Ciampi said. “Now I work for patients. I don’t work for the government and I don’t work for insurance companies.”
Ciampi sent out a letter to patients at the start of 2013 to tell them about the change. Upfront about the cost of care, the Ciampi Family Practice posted their prices to their website. He says now he can charge what he wants for services and offer discounts to patients depending on their financial situation. He can even make house calls.
“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 said.
Before he stopped taking insurance, he had about 2,000 patients. Ciampi said he lost several hundred after the switch. Some patients did not want to deal with the paperwork involved in reimbursement.
“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.”
His prices are low and he expects that will attract new patients who are self-employed, have high deductibles, or lack insurance altogether. A visit to his office used to cost $160 with an existing patient, now it’s just $75. He says patients with strep throat or ear pain who go to a local emergency room will spend $300. But at his office it only cost $50.
“I’ve been able to cut my prices in half because my overhead will be so much less,” he said. Since patients pay immediately, the cost of sending bills is eliminated.
He expects other doctors to eventually begin doing the same. He said doctors could even run a concierge practice, in which patients pay to keep them on retainer.
“If more doctors were able to do this, that would be real health care reform,” he said. “That’s when we’d see the cost of medicine truly go down.”