Coast Doctor On A Mission To Make Health Care Affordable - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/28/02

Coast Doctor On A Mission To Make Health Care Affordable

An Ocean Springs physician says he is bridging the gap between doctor and patient by eliminating the middle man. In Dr. Todd Coulter's eyes, the middle man is health insurance. About seven months ago, Coulter says the Midway Family Care became the first clinic in the country to stop taking insurance. He charges a $40 flat rate for office visits instead.

In the beginning all Dr. Coulter wanted for the clinic was accessibility and convenience but something else was missing.

"We found out there were more people who could not afford to see us," said Coulter. "We wanted to change the way that we practiced medicine so that we could meet their needs."

Coulter found the best way to meet those needs was to create a billing system that was fair to all his patients.

Coulter said "You cannot charge a patient one fee if they don't have insurance and then charge insurance payers a higher fee just because they have insurance. So the reason we stopped taking insurance was that we did not want to be unethical. We wanted everyone to pay the same fee."

Not everyone wanted a dose of Doctor Coulters's approach to health care, and he lost some patients initially. Since then the idea of a flat rate has caught on and his practice is growing. He sees an average of 18 to 25 patients a day. With no billing records and thousands of dollars less in overhead cost, Coulter says he can afford to charge a low rate and stay in business. He can also give more of his attention to treating people instead of the paperwork.

"I'm a better physician because of it. I'm a better physician because of the way we practice medicine," said Coulter. "There's not the doctor sitting here on Mount Olympus and the little patient sitting down on the stairs. We are co-equals, co-collaborators in good health."

Midway Family Care clinic operates on a cash only basis. Doctor Todd Coulter says he stopped taking checks because of the added cost that comes if they don't clear. Meanwhile, others are taking notice. Coulter was profiled on "CBS Evening News" and gets calls from doctors around the country who want to know more about his system.

by Danielle Thomas

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