Doctor's Obamacare alternative: Flat fees, not insurance
Dr. Kevin Petersen
1/21/2014 6:00:00 AM
By Kim Steele
KINGMAN - Dr. Kevin Petersen brought his no-insurance surgery plan to members of the Republican Men's Club Monday to show them there are more health care options available than the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Peterson, a general surgeon who is the founder of No Insurance Surgery Inc. and Summerlin Surgical Associates in Las Vegas, told the audience he doesn't accept insurance or government money for the outpatient hernia and gallbladder surgeries he performs. He charges $5,000 for hernia operations and $6,900 for gallbladder operations, which include pre-op and post-op care, anesthesia and operating room costs.
"I got tired of working for the insurance companies and taking their abuse," said Petersen. "I was having to see 50 patients a week and working a 100-hour work week. Now, my patients pay my fee and I provide medically necessary surgery at a discounted rate. I love my job now, have the time to take good care of my patients, perform 10 surgeries a week, don't fight to get paid, and work a 50-hour week."
Petersen earned his medical degree at Tufts University Medical School in Boston. He received resident surgery training at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and completed a fellowship in organ transplant at Los Angeles County/USC Hospital.
Petersen served as chief resident while completing his surgery training at the Chicago Medical School. He began practicing in 1986 in Chicago and moved to Las Vegas in 2000.
In his 27 years of practice, said Petersen, he has seen major changes in how medical insurance has evolved, from coverage only for extraordinary circumstances by employers to the coming of the ACA, which took effect this year.
Petersen said he had to hire three employees just to handle insurance issues.
As the changes progressed, he decided to make it easier on his patients and provide them a set fee for operations while they negotiated their own fees for the operating room and anesthesia.
He discovered they couldn't.
So after talking with friends who were plastic surgeons and who advised him to create affordable packages for patients that included all services, Petersen found it was "just what the doctor ordered."
While his patient referral base quickly evaporated, other people who heard about his services quickly took their place.
But as the ACA has loomed on the horizon, Petersen has had to consider how it might affect him and his growing business.
"I get a lot of people who ask what Obamacare will do to me," said Petersen. "They want to know if I will still be able to practice. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that there will still be 30 million people without insurance under the expansion. My guess is that Obamacare will be in utter chaos for the next five years and no one knows yet how it will end up.
"My hope is that the government won't make what I'm doing illegal because if it does, I'll be dead in the water."
The widely cited CBO report from May estimates that about 30 million people would remain without health insurance by 2023. It also estimates that 25 million people who couldn't get insurance before the new law would be able to get health insurance, and that the insurance rate for the nation's non-elderly population would increase to 90 percent, up from 80 percent this year.
After listening to Petersen, Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said she considered following Petersen's example herself when she was a family practitioner in Lake Havasu City several years ago with her pediatrician mother, Lorraine Byrd.
Ward said she often felt like a clerk for the insurance companies rather than an advocate for her patients.
Ward said she is introducing a bill this week in the Arizona Senate to make sure physicians are allowed to practice in hospitals without restrictions, whether or not they accept insurance or government aid.
"Dr. Petersen's concept is great and a viable alternative to Obamacare," said Ward. "My hope is that he is able to thrive and be a model for our country. I agree with him that Obamacare is a disaster and will be for some time to come."