Maine Doctor Drops Health Insurance to Offer Patients Flat Rates

doctor drops health insuranceAccepting health insurance as a form of payment is no longer on the agenda for a family practice doctor in Maine, according to a new report from Bangor Daily News. After feeling restricted by insurance companies for years, he decided the best way to care for his patients is to refuse health coverage and charge a flat rate for medical payments instead.

Doctor Trades Health Insurance for Flat-Rate System

Dr. Michael Ciampi, who practices in South Portland, Maine, has chosen to refuse all forms of health insurance, including government-sponsored Medicare and Medicaid, instead asking his patients to pay for all health care expenses out of pocket.

According to the Bangor Daily News, Ciampi’s decision came from the realization that insurance companies heavily restricted how he ran his practice.

To avoid the red tape often associated with receiving reimbursements from insurance companies and government-run insurance programs, Ciampi switched to a flat-rate system.

Now, patients can pay as little as $50 for an office visit, $20 for a telephone consultation with the doctor, $100 for minor surgery and $10 for lab tests.

By switching to a flat-rate system, he says he is able to provide better serve his patients and is even able to make house calls ($200) or have his nurses make house visits ($20).

Health Insurance vs. Flat-Rate Medical Payments

When Dr. Ciampi initially informed his 2,000 patients that he would no longer accept any form of health insurance as of April 1, 2013, he encountered mixed reviews.

While some patients were happy to see that the doctor had reduced by half the flat rates he originally charged to individuals without health insurance, some patients with coverage were displeased to learn that they would have to seek reimbursements from insurers on their own in order to remain patients.

As a result, Ciampi said that he lost several hundred patients. But he noted that the ability to serve a broader group of consumers and serve his patients directly, as opposed to having a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner do the work, was well worth the change.

“I’m freed up to do what I think is right for the patients,” he told Bangor Daily News. “If I’m providing them a service that they value, they can pay me, and we cut the insurance out as the middleman and cut out a lot of the expense.”

If a patient was deciding whether to keep health insurance or opting to go with a flat-rate system similar to Ciampi’s, it would be important to examine the total out-of-pocket expenses incurred through insurance versus paying flat rates.

For someone who only has the occasional sniffles or needs a yearly checkup, making flat-rate medical payments could be better. But for a person who is chronically ill, or is cost-sharing health coverage with an employer, it may be cheaper to stick with traditional health insurance.

No matter which option a patient chooses, it’s good that doctors like Ciampi are providing patients with alternative health care options that can meet their personal needs.

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