The Surgery Center of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City has become a surgical hotspot for medical tourists by informing patients the full price of care prior to a procedure, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs reported Dec. 5.
The center began posting prices online for services in 2009 and the prices have not changed since, except to be lowered for some procedures. Keith Smith, MD, co-owner of the surgical center, told the publication the decision to post prices was to help patients and to introduce new medical market forces.
After the ASC's website was launched, patients from Canada began coming to the center. The patients, who in many cases could have had the procedure done for free through their country's healthcare system, were willing to pay out of pocket due to years-long waiting periods for procedures in Canada, according to the publication.
The center is able to keep prices low for patients by charging just enough to cover costs and a small profit, allowing physicians to be paid more, Dr. Smith told the publication.
"The big hospitals want a giant profit margin, and then the anesthesia and surgical staff and the nursing staff are paid the paltry amount left over," Dr. Smith said. "My model is upside down. The Surgery Center of Oklahoma's profit margin is this — it is a razor-thin number. We are virtually, truly, not-for-profit. But the surgeons, anesthesia staff, and the nursing staff are paid above-market rates, because they're doing the work."
The center now receives uninsured patients from all 50 states and several different countries.