Perhaps more than ever before, Americans are awakening to the fact that our current system of healthcare — and the way it’s paid for — is utterly broken. While this is terrible news for the millions of people who are struggling to make ends meet due to medical debt, coverage lapses, or sky-high deductibles, there is a glimmer of hope. Increasingly, modern medical centers such as Urgent 9 are eschewing the insurance system in favor of straightforward, transparent cash pricing.
There’s nothing wrong with the basic principle of health insurance as a concept: everyone pays a supposedly affordable amount into a pool that takes care of the small percentage of people that end up needing to seriously lean on those assets. The healthy help provide treatment for the sick, while the sick also make a contribution to their own care. Certainly not a perfect system by any means, but one that functioned more or less adequately for a number of years.
Unfortunately, much like the human body, health insurance was also subject to change over the decades… and change, it did. From increasingly restrictive networks, to absurdly inflated treatment and medication pricing, to deliberately opaque business practices that served primarily to line the pockets of insurers: the whole industry devolved into a business model instead of a healthcare system.
Never has this been truer than right now, as average people and powerful politicians alike are beginning to finally acknowledge the elephant in the room: healthcare in America doesn’t just need a band-aid, it needs emergency surgery. As insurance companies grow richer, Americans grow poorer and sicker, with many too afraid of financial repercussions to even seek care in the first place. 79 million Americans are in medical debt. The system is broken. But what can be done?
Doctors themselves, including Dr. Manuel Momjian (Urgent 9’s founder), have decided to take matters into their own hands. Instead of playing by the insurance company’s arcane rules, healthcare professionals like Dr. Momjian are opting to implement a cash-based model that takes insurance companies out of the equation entirely. When many people first hear about this model, their immediate reaction is “there’s no way I can afford to pay cash for treatment.” However, those people are basing that reaction on the inflated, unrealistic price of care they’ve witnessed via insurance billing. In reality, those numbers have virtually no bearing on the actual cost for those procedures, treatments, or medications.
In fact, cash-based systems like the one found at Urgent 9 are well within the range of affordability for a vast majority of patients. By setting fair, affordable prices, and offering a generous amount of treatment and follow-up for that cost, Urgent 9 and other cash-based medical centers are putting the focus back on the patient instead of the profit model.
By paying as you go, you’re an active participant in your own care — you’re learning exactly what you need, and why you need it. The muddiness of insurance paperwork is instantly cleared away, replaced by a system that hearkens back to a golden era where doctors were more free to provide the best treatment possible for an individual patient, rather than having to play the insurance company’s game.
Many citizens are so used to the health insurance model that they don’t even realize there’s another option out there. Think about it: if you get sick or need a treatment performed via your insurance provider, you’ll have to fork over a deductible, co-pay, prescription costs, overage percentage — and of course, your monthly premium. On the other hand, if you go by the cash pay model, you simply pay a vastly reduced price for what you need, when you need it. You have the ability to potentially finance these modest costs, or simply pay in full right then and there.
The beauty of the cash pay model is that it restores the patient-doctor relationship to a true partnership and a dynamic that is most concerned with patient outcomes above all else. The challenge is to educate and inform the citizens of Los Angeles and cities all over the country that there are doctors embracing a cash-based system. It can be scary to deviate from what we’ve always known, especially when the facts seem too good to be true. No more sky-high monthly premiums that cost as much as leasing a BMW? No more astronomical deductibles that were never affordable in the first place? No more vague billing language and circular arguments for coverage that could make or break your finances for the next decade?
It’s here. It’s real. The future of healthcare is happening right now, and it’s happening at Urgent 9 in Glendale CA right alongside medical centers all over the country. By providing this option, cash-pay doctors are refusing to play the insurance companies’ rigged game and putting the power of choice back in the hands of patients. And when patients embrace this cash model, they vote with their wallets for a future where getting sick doesn’t mean you have to empty your bank accounts.