by The Patient
Over 25 years ago a friend recommended a doctor to me. The doctor had a private practice and his office was nearby. Best of all, he favored “preventive and natural medicine”, important to me as I seem to be allergic to half the substances known to mankind. Foods, chemicals, dyes, you name it, I’m allergic.
I appreciated he was a small business owner, being one myself. I didn’t have insurance, because one month of insurance cost more than I usually spent in three years at the doctor. (Even 25 years ago, policies for one person were extremely expensive.)
So I went to see Doctor Tim. He was a great guy, very helpful, very respectful. Afterwards, the gal at the front desk printed out a bill for $80. As I was writing my check, Doctor Tim came up, took the bill, drew a line across it, and wrote in “$60.00”.
I was floored. “Look, he said, “If we bill an insurance company, it takes an incredible amount of our time, energy and money. Insurance companies don’t pay the full amount of the bill, and it takes a long time for us to be paid. People who pay in the moment deserve to pay less, it’s still better for us.”
“Wow, thanks!” I replied.
Years later, Doc Tim joined a big medical business in my metro area, in charge of one of their offices. At that big business, still uninsured, I had to pay full price. Then one day the front desk clerk said, “If you’re paying today, self-insured, there’s 20 percent off your bill.” Amazing.
Next time I told Doc Tim, “Great news on the 20 percent off!” He said, “Let me tell you a story about that.
“I went to meetings for two years, saying that I thought our self-insured customers deserved this. People finally agreed. But the computer guys said they had to change the system to accommodate it. Next meeting, same conversation.
“Finally, after two years, I sent a bill out front with the instructions, ‘Take 20 percent off, patient is self-pay.” The front desk did just that. Soon my phone lit up with the billing department, ‘Why did you do this?’
“I told them I did it because they’d been talking about it for years, plenty of time to get it done, and I was going to continue. Within *one month*, the 20 percent off was in the computers, system-wide, for all our locations.”
Needless to say, my jaw dropped. One person, one conviction to do what was right, thousands of patients paying a more “fair” rate, probably still more money than insurance companies paid. Imagine how many people, how many families that would help over the years.
It’s probably been 10 years. I still don’t see the doctor often. But when I do, there’s 20 percent off my bill. On my behalf, and the thousands of people who don’t know the story: Thank you, Doctor Tim.