Medical FastPass: Experiencing Free-Market Medicine

The happiest place on Earth makes me miserable.

I hate lines and crowds only slightly less than I hate government bureaucracies and terrorists. Recognizing that I’m not alone in my disdain, Disney created something called FastPass.

The theory goes that for a few extra dollars, you can skip the queues and go nearly to the front of the line. I’d gladly forfeit a limb for these miracle tickets… if they worked. Unfortunately, FastPass is not fast, nor does it provide a pass ahead of anyone.

I’ve commiserated with fathers of young children about the long lines at theme parks. The experience has been compared to sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.

But I’d actually prefer the doctor. Because at least there is a real fast-pass solution to the problems many face with routine medical care…

Waiting Room Hell

Our president and the first family travel with an entire medical staff. They receive attention at the first sign of a sniffle.

Similarly, the uber-wealthy have constant, immediate access to medical care.

It’s known as “concierge medicine,” and those 24-7 services come with a hefty price tag. I’ve seen annual costs as high as $15,000.

I may hate waiting in lines, but I hate spending thousands of dollars even more… especially considering I’m in good health.

To solve my dilemma, I’ve limited my physicals to once every five years or so. (Or, as my wife would say, never.)

Trouble is, I visit the doctor so infrequently that last year I discovered my physician had retired. And after a few weeks of calling around, I found that there are not a lot of local doctors accepting new patients.

I eventually scored an appointment with my wife’s semiretired doctor – six months out.

And so, half a year later, I found myself in waiting room hell, surrounded by sick and probably contagious people.

After 55 minutes, the nurse announced my name. I nearly leaped into her arms at the opportunity to abandon my fellow inmates… only to find myself placed into a smaller cell to begin my wait again.

A new nurse arrived after only 15 minutes. She did a quick lap around my body, checking my vital signs.

“The doctor will be with you in a moment,” this exceptionally pleasant woman-in-white lied. That is, unless you define moment as 25 minutes, which is how long it was, I believe, before the doctor arrived.

I’m not really sure it was a doctor. He was moving at near-light speed. And even though I know we had one, I don’t recall our conversation. He was gone in a flash.

The entire experience was two hours and 40 minutes. I spent just 10 minutes with the actual doctor.

How to Never Wait to See Your Doctor

Patients – and patience – aren’t the only ones being tortured. Doctors lament this same system. They’ve spent a decade or more preparing for careers helping others… only to discover they’re a cog in an insurance-driven model where no one is left satisfied.

I was feeling down about my experience when something extraordinary happened. A friend mentioned direct primary care, or DPC. I was too busy dialing the phone to catch his explanation. All I needed to hear were these magic words: “I’ve never waited to see my doctor.”

I contacted his doctor’s office, and a very pleasant woman answered. She said, “My system, the DPC format, is completely different from other practices.”

My system?” I thought. Then it dawned on me… this was, in fact, her system. The woman that answered the phone was the doctor.

Never in my life – unless I was looking for a golf partner – had I been able to reach a physician by calling their office. I was sold.

I filled out the paperwork online and checked in for my appointment. No sooner had I sat than a delightful sprite of a woman approached me and announced, “That’s the longest you’ll ever have to wait in my office.”

Introducing herself as Dr. V., she led me into the examination room. No stone, or other manly part, was left unturned. It was the most thorough examination I’d ever experienced in my life. When I left, she literally knew me inside and out.

Total cost for an hour of her undivided attention? Nothing. Zero. Nada.

The DPC model charges a monthly fee. Most don’t accept insurance.

Eliminating the government-regulated insurance bureaucracy saves a ton, in man-hours and dollars. These savings are passed on to the patient. The doctors also make a better living doing what they love to do.

Dr. V. charges $50 per month, per adult. Seasoned adults like myself are $75 a month. Kids are $10, and if you’re 100 or older, it’s a buck (really). For this monthly subscription, we get presidential-style service with 24-hour access. Using my smartphone and video calling, no matter where we are on the planet, I can tap my doctor’s shoulder and get a diagnosis or needed prescriptions.

Some have coined this new practice “Blue-Collar Concierge” medicine. It fits.

Take the example of a 30-year-old single mom with one child. Her cost of DPC would be just under $2 a day. For that, she’d get 24-hour access to a physician. Skip the daily $4 latte and you’ll have no waiting, no wasted workdays and fabulous service. And did I mention some make house calls for only a little extra?

In most cases, DPC physicians perform stitches or manage simple fractures in their offices for free. This eliminates expensive ER visits.

EKGs, breathing treatments, hearing tests, mole removals, skin biopsies, joint injections… all are free. Even some vaccinations are free and, by skipping the insurance companies, these docs can also negotiate true market prices for pharmaceuticals.

  • A Z-Pak costs $5.
  • X-rays cost $35 for two.
  • A 90-day supply of cholesterol meds runs $1.71.

The list goes on.

Once you include these savings and calculate your time, you’ll recognize that DPC is a bargain. You’ll also find it impossible to return to the old model, because, unlike Disney’s FastPass, this one works.

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