Thursday, May 7, 2009

N.Y. doctor offers flat-rate care for uninsured

"A New York doctor is offering flat-rate health care for the uninsured for $79 a month, but he has run afoul of state insurance regulations in a case that challenges the established norms of the U.S. health system."

"Dr. John Muney, president of AMG Medical Group, said he started the program in September after noticing that many of his patients were losing their jobs, and therefore, their health insurance coverage."

"About 500 people have registered for Muney's $79-a-month plan, accounting for 15 percent of patients at the practice, which has offices in each of New York's five boroughs."

"The monthly $79 fee -- roughly equivalent to the price of a Starbucks coffee a day -- covers unlimited preventive visits and onsite medical services such as minor surgery, physical therapy, lab work and gynecological care."

"So far the program has not turned a profit, but Muney said he estimates that it could be profitable with 4,000 patients. In the meantime, he said, his motive is to give something back and provide a model of how healthcare can be more efficient."

"Our healthcare system lends itself to abuse, fraud and waste," he said, adding that bypassing insurers saved on administrative costs, which he said were about 25 percent of the price of care. "With this model, we're bypassing all that."

"Muney said he received initial complaints from state insurance authorities in November. "The law says you can do preventive checkups unlimited, but if they come for sick visits you have to charge your overhead costs," he told Reuters."

"In February he received a letter instructing him that he must charge that minimum cost, which he calculates at $33 a visit -- a price he says will deter people from signing up."

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