Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ga. doctor finds simple way to pay for health care

Saturday, September 07, 2013, 7:22am
(NECN/NBC News: Lauren Walsh, Augusta, Ga.) - A Georgia doctor has a much simpler way of paying for health care.

He doesn't accept health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. Instead, his unique practice offers patients unlimited visits for a flat monthly rate.

Unlike most doctor's visits, Aubrielle Mills' parents aren't paying a copay or towards their deductible, and they say it's eliminating a lot of questions.

"Do we really want to sit in the waiting room? Do we really want to have that expense of being seen? Is it worth just trying to fix it on our own?"asked Nathan Mills, the patient's father.

Like all of Dr. Robert Lamberts' patients, the Mills pay a flat monthly rate for unlimited primary care.

"It is very nice to know each month that this is the amount we pay for our medical bills," said Aubrielle's mother, Meredith Mills.

Lamberts, who left his 18-year career in traditional medicine, admits his new business model is a learning process.

"If I can make each week just a tiny bit of progress, in a month, we've got a moderate amount of progress, and in a year we've got a whole lot of progress if we just keep turning in that direction," explained Dr. Lamberts.

Although all of Lamberts' patients visit him for their primary care, half of them still carry their own health insurance.

Many wonder what happens in case of emergency for those who choose not to have insurance with Lamberts' plan.

"That's where people say, well, then I'll just drop my insurance and take you. I say, you don't want to do that," suggests Lamberts. "You need to have some sort of insurance to cover if you do have those emergencies, or if you do have those problems."

Lamberts believes his patients are less likely to have one of those emergencies because his goal is to keep each of them healthy and out of the doctor's office. It's a concept that benefits his office financially, so that he can add new patients and gain new monthly payments.

"What is our purpose in health care? It's not to give medicines. It's not to draw lab tests. It's to get people healthy."

His latest challenge is selling that concept to patients and the medical community.

"And that's actually, to some extent, a hard sell to patients sometimes because I'm saying, it's not necessary to treat that, or we don't need to do all of those lab tests. Because truthfully, they don't show us anything to make you feel better or make you live longer," said Lamberts.

It's a new kind of thought process, at a time when our nation's health care laws are drastically changing. Lamberts thinks the Affordable Care Act may actually boost his business.

"That says that people can have a direct contract with a physician, along with a high deductible health care plan and that can qualify them for that type of insurance that they're actually covered," Lamberts said.

He believes this could incentivize businesses to offer his service to their employees.

"And I think from my standpoint, that's one of the real opportunities."

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