FREE MARKET HEALTH CARE

August 7, 2012

Our clients’ health is of utmost importance to us.  We consider the needs of the whole person; financial, physical and spiritual.  In this short series we will focus on health.

Social Security and Medicare are in trouble.  According to Social Security’s Summary of the 2012 Annual Reports, “both Medicare and Social Security cannot sustain projected long-run program costs under currently scheduled financing.” Medicare trust funds are predicted (optimistically) to run out by 2024.  “As [our] safety net shrinks, medical costs will grow”, InvestmentNews reports in their May 7, 2012 Issue.  “Even if Medicare is repaired, an average couple retiring at 65 will need to set aside $230,000 just to pay for medical costs. . . according to a study by Fidelity Investments.”

On top of these challenges, the critical doctor shortage we have in America is likely to worsen with implementation of Obamacare, according to the July 28, 2012 NY Times front page article on the subject. Older citizens require significantly more health care than others and increasing numbers of retirees will further tax an already overloaded system.  The doctor shortage already shows in our overall quality of care.  According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. health care system ranks 37th in the world, but we have the highest per capita cost per citizen…$7,960.  Yet, we allocate most all of our resources to treatment of disease instead of prevention via health management.  Something about that complicated picture is just wrong.

In light of these challenges, and in order to inform and better serve our clients and their health care needs, we have begun to research supplemental options in medical care.  There are a host of services with differing specialties. Some are in the U.S., some are overseas.  Some offer 24/7 access in very remote locations. Some are just around the corner.  Some are cash-only, and some are owned by insurance companies.  Here is a sample of what we have discovered:

Concierge Medicine

“Concierge care is as much about preventing problems as reacting to problems when they arise, says Roberta Greenspan, the Chicago-based president of Specialdocs Consultants, which helps doctors transition into concierge practices.”  (Reuters Money article)  Cenegenics was one of the first practices to offer concierge medicine. They help to manage the aging process through a personalized plan of fitness, nutraceutical supplementation, a low glycemic diet and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. For 14 years, they have practiced “proactive” medicine as opposed to “reactive” medicine.  “Our approach is to optimize health using the evidence based practice of age management medicine to prevent the development of diseases going forward. There are measurable levels of health and fitness one can achieve to drastically reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and all other causes of death beside accidents.“  -Brian Miles, MD, Cenegenics Carolinas, Charleston, SC.  www.cenegenics-carolinas.com.    We develop the concierge medicine theme in a later article.

US Cash Only Surgery Centers

Dr. Keith Smith was disgusted with the high cost of surgery. He determined to do something about it.  After facing down the “cartel,” as he refers to them, of big hospitals, government and insurance, he and Dr. Steve Lantier started the Surgery Center of Oklahoma. The center takes no government monies. For that reason, they are able to charge much less for surgical procedures. The center has now moved into a 40,000 sq. ft. facility with over 40 specialists. Their fees are all inclusive.  (www.surgerycenterok.comNorth American Surgery has a variety of contacts in 8 states that operate on a cash basis for much lower fees. Their website advertises a coronary bypass surgery for $15,000, when on average it costs $100,000 (http://timelymedical.ca/). Most centers are in the Midwest, as they can only be located in states that do not require a “certificate of need”.  A certificate of need is obtained from state legislatures and health departments; usually, they do not find[RML1]  a “need” for a competitive facility anywhere near a state-run hospital.

Overseas Treatments

Many Americans are opting for overseas medical treatment: “medical tourism,” as it’s known. The doctors are highly skilled. The facilities are often held to a stricter code than U.S. hospitals for sterile environments—just make sure to choose one accredited by the Joint Commission International. And, the recovery can be much more enjoyable, as many programs put patients in a five-star hotel after their procedures. On top of this, the decision to go overseas saves money; in some cases enough money to escape bankruptcy. (Samantha Buker, “How to save Your Life and Save $73,000-100,000 in the Process” The Apogee Advisory, July 2012).

MedRetreat has access to a network of hospitals in Brazil, Costa Rica, South Africa, Mexico, Thailand and Malaysia. They will set you up with two managers, one here and one at your destination that handle all aspects of your travel, medical care, and accommodations. MedRetreat only uses facilities accredited by the Joint Commission International.  (http://www.medretreat.com/)

WorldMed Assist offers stem-cell treatments for Multiple Sclerosis, COPD, Chronic Heart Failure and stroke. They offer advanced options on other procedures as well.  On their site, they claim a BBB A+ rating. WorldMed Assist offers financing and insurance for your trip and treatment. You’ll find a five-star hotel recovery option with this company. (www.WorldMedAssist.com)

Even Blue Cross/Blue Shield is encouraging overseas medical treatment.  Companion Global Healthcare is a medical tourism company that is owned by BlueCross/BlueShield of South Carolina.  They will help coordinate your journey to Joint Commission International-accredited overseas hospitals that are in the BlueCross network to receive medical services covered under your health plan. Companion Global Healthcare has also developed a relationship with Doctors Care, who will provide pre-op and follow-up care in South Carolina.

Conclusion

These days, health care is a challenge for all of us to manage, but especially if you spend part of the year in another state or country or if you travel for a living.  We will spend more time on those issues in the next article.  Long Investment Advisory, Inc. provides contacts and information to help their clients find superior alternatives for special situations and health management.  We recognize that most have excellent health care with their present physicians and may not need additional resources.

We encourage a free market system where doctors can make good money for the years of education and sacrifice they have endured, while still providing good value for the community.  The free market is providing alternatives.  More and more physicians are looking into alternative practices to extricate themselves from the regulatory burdens.  We understand through the eyes of our physician clients that they are overworked and being squeezed by market forces, malpractice risk and increasing regulations.  It is hard to practice in this environment and that is why we are losing so many physicians.  Because of this, we provide comprehensive service and care to our physicians to simplify their lives and to help them meet their obligations to their families. We are a preferred provider with MD Preferred Physician Services (http://www.mdpreferredservices.com/), the online resource center for physicians and healthcare executives.

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Randy M. Long, J.D., CFP®, CExP™
Long Investment Advisory, Inc.

Co-Author:  Lydia L. Long

North Carolina Office:
5101 Dunlea Court
Suite 204C
Wilmington, NC 28405
(910) 399-2748

California Office:
1756 11th Street
Reedley, CA 93654
(559) 638-5336

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