Growing older tends to mean more visits to the doctor. And with today’s healthcare in America, the more I need my doctor, the less time he has to see me.
I went to see my doctor last week. He walked into the room and said, “Hello, I only have 5 or 10 minutes, I’m way behind.” Now, can you imagine being greeted this way at any other business? During my previous visit he was in the room with me for three or four minutes and barely looked at me because he was too busy typing. Then he got up, shook my hand, said, “I have to get going, I’m way behind” and left the room. I guess that was my cue to leave. It’s like speed dating without the fun.
I might not feel so bad if the doctor wasn’t being paid around $250 per visit. I should get more than three minutes of watching a guy type for $250. I remember the days when a doctor would check my heart, my ears, etc. I mean, do something. It’s not like I’m asking for a prostate exam. In fact, I’d really rather not go there. But at least earn your money. Don’t stick me on an assembly line, give me my pill and send me on my way.
Now, I understand that it isn’t the doctor’s fault. I’ve been reading a lot lately about Direct Primary Care. Using this model, doctors open an office alone or with one other doctor. They bypass the insurance companies, instead having patients pay a monthly fee averaging from $40 to $100. These fees include visits, some lab tests, and in some cases, house calls. Because insurance companies are not involved, the costs of tests are what they should be. For example, in one office an x-ray is $35.
Direct Primary Care physicians have 400 to 600 patients instead of the 2000-2500 that most doctors have. They average 30 to 60 minutes per patient, not the 10 or 15 (if you’re lucky) of other doctors. And because around 60% of doctor’s fees go to administrative costs, doctors using the Direct Primary Care model make a comparable amount of money to their counterparts, with much less stress.
My doctor is a nervous wreck. He’s told me several times about how he should get therapy for his anxiety or go on antidepressants. Realizing this, I printed out a couple of articles about Direct Primary Care before last week’s visit and handed it to him when he entered the room (right after he told me he only had 5 or 10 minutes. This cut my time down even further). I told him he was always stressed, always rushed, and he should read the articles.
He replied that using that model, you only take the people with money. That goes against the Hippocratic Oath, where you promise to provide the best possible health care to everyone.
I told him that if he’s only giving me 5 or 10 minutes, I’m not getting the best possible health care he can provide. Far from it. Plus, we pay more than $40 a month for health insurance, and when you factor in the sky-high costs of testing, the cost is much, much higher. One of the benefits of Direct Primary Care is that it is much more affordable.
He said that was an excellent argument, but I could tell he was not interested. I’ve looked into Direct Primary Care physicians in my area but the closest is in Portland, about a 45 minute drive. So if any of you want to spread the word to doctors in the Southern Maine area, we may be able to get some acceptable health care that isn’t all about making a profit. Imagine that.
I know it can be a bad idea to go against big insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and I’m not asking anyone to be a rebel. I just want a doctor who’ll actually give me my money’s worth and take the time to try to fix what’s ailing me and everyone else. You know, like they’re supposed to.