As reported in the Tuesday, June 15 edition of The Northwoods River News, a free market healthcare symposium was held June 8 at the Northwoods Surgery Center in Woodruff. Among the guests were area human resources department representatives, CEOs, CFOs, and school administrators. All were there with the common goal of potentially lowering and simplifying their offered insurance plans.
Speakers at the event, which included local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Tadych, held the common bond of being members of the Free Market Medical Association, which was started by Dr. Keith Smith and Jay Kempton. Tadych said Smith has been a mentor of his and currently operates a specialty surgery center in Oklahoma with 66 physicians - none of whom take health insurance.
"They are swamped. They are getting business from all over the United States. People fly their employees to them, because they can do many surgeries for a 10th of cost in many cases," Tadych said, addressing the crowd of nearly 40 at the symposium. "In fact, when I was there, the surgeons who own the surgical, orthopedic hospital next door - they were doing their cases in Keith's building. They said 'we're getting direct pay. It's fast and we like to bring our patients there.'"
The Free Market Medical Association serves as a platform for buyers of healthcare to meet sellers. The primary objective is price transparency, with patients having the ability to know up front what they will be paying for an individual procedure.
"All the primary guys in our country have realized that we need to take back health care and they have all started a separate movement," Tadych said.
Visitors heard presentations from Brian Erdmann, MD, co-founder, owner of Priority Medical Partners in Rhinelander; Tim Thorsen, DPT, OCS, CMTPT, owner/CEO of Health in Motion in Rhinelander and surrounding communities; Dr. David Usher, of ReforMedicine in Eau Claire; and Ross Bjella, co-Founder and CEO of Alithias, a patient advocacy, population health and data analytics company.
"One of the things that I like to tell my patients is that health care is kind of like fixing your car," Tadych said. "And, it's really not that much more expensive than changing your car."
Tadych said common surgeries, often thought to be very expensive, can be performed today at a much lower cost. Lasik eye surgery ($300), carpal tunnel ($1,900), and ACL ($6,400) procedures are all examples cited by Tadych.
"The current system has gotten away with charging for a lot of elective procedures, because of the lack of price transparency," he said. "What's really unethical is that it's strapping debt of five year olds, because of adult's healthcare. Or, making hardworking families pay astronomical prices and they can't afford any health care. That's our current system."
Tadych furthered his point by showing a graph which highlighted the lack of growth for numbers of physicians in the U.S., alongside a graph showing a much higher growth in hospital administrators, insurance agents and "pencil pushers."
From 1970 to 2009 there was a growth level of 3,400 percent among hospital administrators, he reported. Comparatively, the doctors have seen a growth rate of just under 200 percent.
While the concept of transparent health care pricing is attractive to many, with health insurance only being needed for high-level, unforeseen procedures (car accident, cancer), there are criticisms of the system's feasibility in the United States.
One of these is putting lower-income individuals, who do not have the financial resources to put money into a health savings account, at a disadvantage.
On the other side of the equation is a fully nationalized, single-payer system, which has been implemented in countries such as Canada, Germany, France, and Australia.
If anything was to be taken away from Tadych's health care symposium, it is that many people are frustrated on both sides of the aisle about the current state of health care in the United States.
Evan Verploegh may be reached via email at email@example.com
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