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Getting the waste out of healthcare — Dr. Richard Kube on price transparency

The economics of healthcare are disproportionate and put physicians at a disadvantage, but one group believes there is a vision that can change healthcare forever.

Richard Kube, MD, is a spine surgeon and the founder of Peoria, Ill.-based Prairie Spine & Pain Institute and its southern Illinois satellite in Marion. He also founded Prairie SurgiCare, an AAAHC-accredited spine focused surgical facility, also in Peoria. He is a staunch advocate for the Free Market Medical Association, so much so that he co-founded the Illinois chapter.

The Free Market Medical Association is a nationwide group helping to promote price transparency in healthcare. Started in 2014, the FMMA helps connect providers to patients in the most cost transparent way possible in order to create a healthcare marketplace.

As the founder of two private practices, the FMMA appealed to Dr. Kube for a variety of reasons — one of the biggest being it cuts some unnecessary waste out of healthcare.

"There's so much cost that doesn't even have to be there," Dr. Kube says. "You should be able to know what you're buying, what it actually costs and what the [individual] components cost. That is how most service industries work; healthcare should be no different. [That] is what attracted us to this."

The FMMA provides a forum or marketplace where patients find free market physicians and independent physicians gain access to a whole new patient population with decreased outside bureaucratic interference. This allows the medical practice to run more like a traditional service industry business. Dr. Kube said the organization sees an opportunity to drive healthcare cost down, while also improving the quality of care that a patient receives, because free market forces promote value.

In a FMMA model, a patient, self-insured business or payer and physician agree on a fair price for an operation or service. The customer knows what they're paying upfront and the provider/seller knows what he'll be receiving.

"In a free market model, the patient is the consumer. Our current system grays these lines such that the insurance companies and hospitals etc. are also consumers in the exam room. There is never complete alignment of goals between all of these added so-called consumers, and hence, the patient loses. The free market model strips the relationship down to 2 people in the exam room which is how it should be. At the end of the day [the patient and provider] have a mutually agreed to service and purchase based upon what the patient desires," Dr. Kube says.

By conducting negotiations beforehand and eliminating intermediaries and payers, Dr. Kube can lower his practices' overhead and pass significant savings to the patient, while also growing his revenues and decreasing frustrating administrative activities.

"What's in it for me is I get to practice medicine the way I want which is focused upon the patient/physician relationship, and I get to run my practice ... like a business would work," he says. "I don't have 50 other outside people to compensate or 50 other arbitrary metrics to meet. It boils down to what do you as a patient/consumer need and how can I make that happen for you."

It is estimated that as many as one in three insured individuals in the U.S. population receives coverage from a self-insured employer, which represents a tremendous opportunity to curb skyrocketing healthcare costs for businesses. Although Dr. Kube's caseload doesn't solely consist of self-insured cases, the percentage of self-insured cases he does perform are among the most economically sound.

Although the organization is fairly new, both Dr. Kube and the group believe it could be the market disruptor healthcare needs.

He says, "If you are focused upon the person in front of you, you are more likely to provide them what they need and how they need it which improves patient outcomes and satisfaction. This is a good way to practice medicine."

For more information on the Free Market Medical Association, click here.

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