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Cash-only practices cut down on costs, not options

The United States’ health care system has had a less-than -stellar reputation the last few years. Between co-pays, staff-time, and “red tape” as some doctors describe it, dealing with insurance companies has turned some health care practices into bureaucracies. To assist the wallets of patients and benefit practices, a number of cash-only practices have emerged. While health insurers are still a necessary entity for some, cash-only practices make visiting the doctor a more convenient process for those who lack options.

“It’s a terrible indictment of the collapsing health care system,” Arthur Caplan, chairman of the medical ethics department at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, told The Associated Press. Instead of streamlining as managed care and insurance were supposed to, Caplan said the abundance of paperwork is driving some doctors away.

While not all doctors are hopping on the cash-only bandwagon, those who are appear to be content with their decision.

“Accounts receivable is zero. It’s a great feeling. … I feel like a real doctor again,” Dr Vern Cherewatenko, a doctor whose practice is now cash-only, told AP. Cherewatenko had previously charged $79 for office visits. He would receive $43 (minus $20 for staff involved with collecting the fees) months later from his insurance company. Now, his patients pay $50 in full, and are informed ahead of time in case extra services or tests are needed.

By cutting out insurance companies, some doctors have found it easier to take on smaller patient loads and still be able to make ends meet. Dr. Shelley Giebel described to AP the benefits of no longer having to take on a new patient every 12 minutes. She indicated that by relying on insurance, she would have to double her load in order to meet her quota. Obviously, the less time a doctor has to spend with a patient, the less time he or she has to really learn about the patient’s affliction, and therefore the less time they have to properly diagnose.

According to AP, there are 43 million Americans who do not have health insurance plans. This lack of coverage leads to a lack of options as far as healthcare is concerned. By offering cash-only alternatives, those without insurance are now able to obtain the care they need, rather than forgoing it altogether.