MediBid, member surgeon help member save a bundle on surgery
Michael Miller · Mar 26, 2019
It was a happy process of health care sharing on all sides.
Samaritan Ministries members needed a procedure. They searched for fair pricing through MediBid, offered through the member Dashboard. They received a reasonable bid from a well-rated surgeon, who turns out to be a Samaritan Ministries member and also offers transparent pricing on his website for all to see. The surgery was performed, and the members were spared the need to juggle bills since they only had to write one check.
This happy process started in late 2018 when Samaritan member Daniel Hatch unfortunately needed carpal tunnel surgery on his right wrist. As the owner of Cartoogechaye Creek Campground near Franklin, North Carolina, he’s active outside and also used to do a lot of gardening and physical labor when he managed condominiums. Years after a similar surgery to his left arm, the work finally also caught up to his right wrist, with the pain even keeping him awake at night.
He and his wife, Vivian, who have been members of Samaritan since 1998, checked out the cost to get the surgery locally, but prices were well over $6,000. They wanted to see if a less expensive provider could be found.
“We decided to use MediBid,” Vivian says.
MediBid is a service that Samaritan makes available for free through the member Dashboard. From there, members can go to MediBid.com, find the type of procedure or treatment that they need, enter their information, and then wait for bids to come in from providers.
This was very easy for us. We would highly recommend people using MediBid.
The Hatches went through the process, submitting information to MediBid in October. Carpal tunnel surgery bids started arriving five minutes later.
“One was here in town, in Franklin,” Daniel says. “One was from Asheville. We had maybe one or two others.”
One of those others was from Dr. Christopher Vaughn of Freedom Orthopedic in Dunwoody, Georgia, outside of Atlanta.
“We researched Dr. Vaughn and saw he was rated 4.5 out of 5 stars,” Daniel says.
Freedom Orthopedic’s price was also much lower than the Hatches had found so far: $2,800 for the surgery, anesthesia, radiology, and hospital expenses. Total. One other bid came in $100 under that, but it didn’t include as many services as Dr. Vaughn’s. The Asheville bid was over three times more than Dr. Vaughn’s just for the doctor, not including hospital or anesthesiologist costs.
The Hatches made their decision and traveled the 120 miles to Dunwoody in December to meet with Dr. Vaughn. There was a bit of confusion about the inclusion of the cost of the initial consultation in the $2,800, but the Hatches and Dr. Vaughn worked that out.
“He said, ‘I will handle everything. You cut me the check, I’ll pay the anesthesiologist, get the operating room set up. You just go to the hospital,’” Daniel says.
The couple also found out that Dr. Vaughn was a Samaritan Ministries member.
“He was very friendly and cordial, a believer,” Daniel says.
When the Hatches arrived at the hospital on the day of the surgery on December 21, “I was just a regular patient to them,” Daniel says. “I got all the care that anyone else would have gotten. Dr. Vaughn took care of it.”
The Hatches paid Dr. Vaughn the day of the surgery.
“This was very easy for us,” Vivian says. “We would highly recommend people using MediBid.”
Only having to write one check for everything also saved the Hatches from having to juggle several bills. The one bill was submitted to Samaritan and the Hatches have received Shares from other members.
The couple also mistakenly received a bill from the hospital, but they just called Dr. Vaughn, who said he would take care of it. The bill, however, revealed how much the hospital alone would have charged for its services: $8,393. The anesthesiologist’s bill was $415. But the Hatches just paid their $2,800 to Dr. Vaughn, plus a $300 fee for the initial consultation.
Daniel’s wrist is in the process of healing. It’s not at 100 percent yet, but he’s able to sleep through the night without pain, which he’s pretty happy about.
While MediBid is helpful for finding reasonable prices for medical treatment, the price the Hatches received is also plainly stated at OrthoFreedom.com, Dr. Vaughn’s website. Freedom Orthopedics offers transparent pricing.
“I complained about our system for so long, even helping to produce the documentary Wait Till It’s Free (by fellow Samaritan member Colin Gunn), but never took concrete steps in practice to make a difference,” Dr. Vaughn says. “The opportunity became available to step into this practice that Dr. Tom Joseph had started. He had already laid the groundwork, and then I extended it by posting prices for numerous common orthopedic surgery procedures on the Freedom Orthopedics website.”
I have taken care of several MediBid patients, and it has been a really easy and seamless process.
Dr. Christopher Vaughn
The key to being able to charge reasonable prices, like the carpal tunnel surgery for $2,800, is the lack of overhead, Dr. Vaughn says.
“We do not need to have a team of coders, billers, and insurance personnel to bill and make sure that we get paid,” the surgeon says. “Office visits and surgeries are paid at or just before the service for surgeries. The surgery price includes facility, anesthesia, and surgery fees. Office visits are a flat fee and include, if needed, X-rays, splints, injections, and review of outside images, as well as the consultation.”
Identifying partner hospital and surgery centers that will offer reasonable pricing is also vital, Dr. Vaughn says.
“Critically important to transparent pricing is having surgery centers and hospitals supportive of the concept and able to give good pricing, because payment is due at the time of service,” he says.
Dr. Vaughn also says that MediBid and Healthcare Bluebook, which is also offered through the member Dashboard, “have been helpful in empowering patients to shop and find costs for services that otherwise would be difficult to estimate.”
“I have taken care of several MediBid patients, and it has been a really easy and seamless process,” he says. He also used Healthcare Bluebook early in the process to arrive at fair prices.
While Dr. Vaughn says he feels blessed to have had great patients with or without insurance over the years, “there is a special bond that comes with members of Samaritan and other health care sharing ministries.”
“Praying with my patients is a special privilege,” he says. “Knowing that we are working together to build an alternative path to care for people in a more Biblical fashion is extremely rewarding. We have an instant connection when somebody tells me their story about Samaritan.”