Dr. Robert Berry had enough of the hassles of insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid, so he decided to stop taking insurance. Instead, he offers his patients a price list, with low prices. How often have you seen that in a doctor's office? With visits often as low as $40, it's hard to see how he makes any money off it.
But Berry said, "Last year I made about the average of what a primary care physician makes in this country."
Berry said eliminating insurance paperwork saves him time and money.
"I don't have to hire billers. I don't have to fight the insurance companies to get the money."
And that lets him keep his prices low, which saves money for his mostly uninsured patients. Knowing that his patients pay with their own money, Berry works with them, trying to find ways to save them money.
"They're afraid. They don't know how much it's going to cost," Berry said. "So I can tell them, OK, you know, you have heartburn. Let's start out with generic Zantac, which costs around five dollars a month. But [they say] 'I see Nexium on TV, I see Prevacid.' Yeah, but that costs about $130 a month. They're great medicines, but why don't you try this one first and see if it works."
And sometimes, he said, the $4 pill at Wal-Mart is just as good as the $100 pill.
So when consumers pay for things themselves, saving insurance for the big stuff, doctors deal directly with customers directly and compete by posting prices and working to keep them low.
That way, instead of having governments or insurance companies make decisions for consumers, consumers decide for themselves. Competition gives consumers more choices.
And choice gives them power.