Dr. Matthew Davis, an orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, Alabama, and a Samaritan Ministries member, is trying to make his practice, Davis Orthopedics, more patient-friendly. He opted out of the Medicare system in 2009 and last year adopted transparent pricing for the procedures he performs. That means the prices he charges are public, consistent and right on his website. We talked to him about his approach to charging patients.
Why did you decide to stop participating in Medicare in 2009?
I don’t see it as a sustainable model for health care services. The natural result is going to be restricted access to medical care for people that are in that system. I didn’t want to be a part of that. I realized if I was outside the system that I could provide whatever care I felt was appropriate and whatever care my patients wanted to pursue without having to worry about violating any rules or regulations. My patient and I could together decide what kind of treatment we felt was appropriate. I was very drawn to that. I didn’t feel that anyone else should dictate what kind of treatment I could provide or what kind of treatment my patients could get.
When did you adopt transparency for your pricing and why?
Federal law allows me to privately contract with my patients so that I can continue to service them and they pay me directly. So (when I opted out of Medicare) I had to determine what I wanted to charge for my services since I was going to be directly dealing with my patients. Over time I have continued to use that price structure for other patients that I have taken care of. In our community we have a population that doesn’t have insurance for various reasons. As an orthopedist I take care of a lot of injuries. Many of these patients would go to the emergency room or urgent care clinic with an injury and they would be diagnosed and told that they had to have follow-up orthopedic care. But without insurance they were having a very difficult time finding someone that would take care of them. Since I was a little bit more prepared to charge a reasonable price for the services I provided, I took it upon myself to go around to some of these different facilities and make sure they were aware of my pricing structure and that it was typically more affordable than other practices in the community.
Probably the biggest change was about a year ago. I went to the first annual Free Market Medical Association meeting in Oklahoma City. At that conference, there were a lot of discussions about price transparency and what impact it had. It resonated with me that I was already doing some of those things but I did not fully appreciate some of the other advantages of promoting it to the public in a more proactive way. That’s when decided to put my prices on my website.
What regulated how much you were charging before that point?
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