This morning in my e-mail inbox was a message from a reader in Kentucky asking if I knew of any ways to find a cash-friendly primary care doctor. This is often one of the more challenging aspects to being a self-pay patient, whether you’re uninsured or have high-deductible health insurance. I thought I’d share today some of the easiest and quickest ways to find cash-only and cash-friendly primary care doctors.
The first way to find a cash-friendly doctor is to simply ask your current doctor (if you have one) if they have preferred or discounted prices for patients who pay at the time of their visit. If they say yes, be sure to ask whether those prices are comparable to or better than what big insurers pay – if they aren’t sure or say no, then the ‘cash’ prices they offer are most likely inflated ‘list’ rates that then get negotiated down for insurers, and you’re likely to end up with those higher prices.
And be sure to ask what those prices are too, at least for an office visit. If they can’t quickly and easily tell you what a routine office visit will cost, then it’s unlikely they are actually set up to deal fairly with self-pay patients.
The other option for quickly finding a doctor who is cash-friendly is to turn to either or both of two web sites, one called SimpleCare.com and the other is a page on the web site of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Between these two sites they list what I would estimate are over a thousand doctors, possibly thousands, across the country. It’s not clear that these listings have been updated in a while however, and I’m not even sure if SimpleCare is still an ongoing operation as I haven’t heard anything about them in a while and haven’t gotten any response to a couple of e-mails I’ve sent over the past year or so (the site is up and usable, however).
I’ve also featured in the past PricePain.com, a web site that allows self-pay patients to shop for care online and find the best cash price for care. There are a couple of other sites that offer similar services, including SnapHealth, DocCost.com and DealWell. These are, like PricePain.com, still in their early stages and have information for limited geographic areas. But as they grow, all three of these should provide a great resource for finding cash-friendly doctors.
If you’re looking for a primary care physician that you can build a long-lasting relationship with, as opposed to seeking treatment only for a single episode of care, you might want to find a direct primary care practice, which charges a monthly fee to be a member in exchange for nearly unlimited primary care. I’ve featured several such practices in the past. One of the easiest ways to find one near you is the web site of the Direct Primary Care Coalition. There are also a couple of companies that are building networks of direct primary care practices, MedLion and Qliance.
Finally, there’s Google – because cash-only and cash-friendly medicine is such a novelty to many, there are numerous news articles in local media about doctors who have abandoned traditional third-party payment and only accept direct payment from their patients. Simply entering your state and terms like ‘cash only doctor’ or ‘insurance-free doctor’ may turn up some options in your local area. Many cash-friendly doctors also make a point of letting patients know through their web sites about their prices, and Google should uncover those as well.
Finding a doctor that deals fairly with self-pay patients by offering real, transparent prices is a challenge, but there are sites out there that can be a big help (including this one, hopefully!).