The importance of the healthcare system has been felt more than ever, as the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re a lucky one, you haven’t had to see a doctor. But for those who did, the experience isn’t always an easy one.
From cost per visit, insurance coverage and waiting times, seeing a doctor can be downright anxiety-inducing, especially now when many have lost their job due to the coronavirus.
That’s why Dr. Timothy Wong in Pittsburg stands out by refusing to take his patients’ insurance and instead, charging $35 for primary care visits.
There is no membership or hidden costs
Wong managed to make this possible “by eliminating the overhead of insurance paperwork and staff at iHealth Clinic in East Liberty,” which allowed him to charge less per visit.
“I pretty much do everything. I do kind of the IT, I do check-in. We get billing done right at the appointment so we don’t need a billing department,” he told WTAE.
His intention was to make seeing a doctor accessible and affordable for those who did not have the means or insurance coverage. Wong states that 8.5% of people in Pittsburgh don’t have insurance coverage, which is the equivalent of 25 000 people.
He doesn’t care about earning less
Dr. Wong came to his resolution after witnessing inequality firsthand during his first five years after residency.
“I worked in the traditional setting for almost five years after residency, and I kind of lost faith in the system,” he told WTAE.
We had so much inefficiency, we were letting down patients, and it was actually worse than I even realized because I never even saw, really, how many people didn’t have insurance.Dr. Timothy Wong
So he decided to quit his job and went on to open IHealth Clinic about 7 months ago, resolved to make it work by showing up six days a week. He is the only employee, meaning that there are no assistants, no nurses and no secretaries.
The patients sign in on an Ipad at the reception and wait until they are called in for their visit.
And yes, even though he is making 65% of an average doctor’s salary, he feels his work is much more rewarding. “I realized that the system was broken, so much to the point that I was part of the problem of contributing to that broken system,” he told AJ+.
Patients with insurance can still choose to consult the IHealth Clinic and would pay even less thanks to their coverage. The cost of a visit can only change if there is additional testing required, which would send the patient to another establishment. Otherwise, $35 dollar is the flat fee for primary care, and a $10 extra for additional ailments.
The most he has charged a patient was $55. Even when extra costs are incurred, he works with patients to make sure they find the most affordable options.
Part of our philosophy is to keep things simple but also to keep our costs low so that we can pass that off to patients.Dr. Timothy Wong to AJ+
Dr. Wong leads by example
Much like the Brooklyn landlord who cancelled rent for hundreds of tenants, Dr. Wong has done an incredible deed to help people his own way. He saw that he was in a position to help and decided to seize the opportunity.
We can do better as providers.Dr. Timothy Wong to AJ+
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to the means or be employed right now. Those of us who can step in to make a change, however small it may be, should be inspired by Dr. Wong and the countless other unsung heroes of this pandemic.
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