I blog about free markets in medical care and transparent pricing.
The Surgery Center of Oklahoma has never been busier. In December we posted the largest number of cases in one month since our beginning (May of 1997). January and February were also characterized by record numbers of patients. What is going on? There are several reasons for this.
Every day that goes by, the reputation of our facility is enhanced. The quality of care provided is unsurpassed. A great number of patients bear “out of network” penalties just to have their surgery at our facility, primarily because of the known quality and its delivery.
Our growth is also an indication of the breakdown of the cartel. Businesses that provide health benefits for their employees are beginning to figure out the extent to which they have been fleeced by the cartel over the years. More human resource managers are seeking out the high quality, low cost alternatives to surgical care that have eluded them until now. Direct arrangements with facilities like mine and other innovative “out of the box” free market solutions are here and more coming. Insurance companies attempting to maintain the cartel will lose more and more business, I predict.
Arrangements with insurance companies are another reason. One company, The Kempton Group, after pledging to eliminate the usual insurance hurdles for us has agreed to pay our fees as displayed on the website. The savings they have passed on to their customers since this agreement was forged is so great that I think they actually count us as friends! More arrangements of this type are on the horizon. One large insurance company executive told me that “..the model whereby the large insurance companies have propped up obscene profits by the large hospitals is unsustainable.” I predict that more and more insurance companies that have shut our facility out will be drawn to our quality and pricing, whatever their past relationships with the big hospitals have been.
Our Canadian refugee business continues to churn along. The stories of neglect these people tell of health care in the great land to the north are as heart wrenching as anything I’ve ever heard. I am honored to be part of this mission of providing care to those trapped by the cold-hearted and deadly bureaucracy of health care in Canada. My friends Mark Galliart at the McBride Clinic Orthopedic Hospital and Dr. John Harvey at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital are also involved in this mission. Hats off to them.
Surgeons are telling me that patients approaching Medicare age are having their procedures prior to turning 65, the opposite situation of just a short time ago. In order to avoid the personal out-of-pocket expense associated with a knee replacement, for instance, patients in the past would typically wait until their Medicare enrollment was effective. This is no longer the case. Patients are telling their physicians that they fear that the care they need will not be available once “health care reform” takes place. The Medicare beneficiaries or soon to be Medicare beneficiaries are particularly concerned that the looming bankruptcy of this program will increasingly result in rationing to them.
Our internet patient population, separate from the Canadian group, continues to flourish, as well. Most of these patients are from the area, although more and more are from surrounding states. A relatively new company, Medibid, takes bids from surgical facilities for the benefit of patients seeking care and as you can imagine we are very likely their favorite medical destination with our low, packaged pricing.
Market forces are always at work in spite of all attempts to quash them. I believe we are witnessing the success of the application of market forces at our facility. High quality. Low and transparent pricing. A competitive environment, one with open and transparent pricing, will bring the deflationary price war and bump in quality so desperately needed in medicine. No policies and procedures or quality reviews or foundations will rinse medical care of the frauds and chiselers like the free market. What an exciting time to be practicing medicine and delivering a unique and fresh product to our patients and to the community.
G. Keith Smith, M.D.