Lisa’s Turn: How Online “Healthcare Consultancy” Falls Short

As the clock ticks closer toward open enrollment and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, I’m struck by the rapid numbers of different companies offering online and telephone “healthcare consultancy” access to doctors, medical insurance staff, and so-called “healthcare advocates.”  Promises abound!   Patients (over the internet or telephone) can be assisted with diagnoses, treatments, prescriptions, and billing issues.  You’ll save time and money.  Or will you?

There’s no doubt many can benefit by these services if performed properly.  It’s ironic, though, that none of my doctors will prescribe anything to me over the telephone, despite knowing me for decades.  I’ve always been told this is for safe medical practice reasons.  If I were subscribing to a “healthcare consultancy” service, I’d definitely want to read the fine print on my sign-up contract, taking special note of any language relating to liability releases.

In reality, some medical issues are relatively simple and can be treated online or on the telephone.  Just as many, if not more, though, fall into the category of moderate or complicated, especially as one ages.  In these instances, “healthcare consultancy” practices may not be the safest avenue to pursue for proper treatment.  The need to see a physician or physician assistant in-person is essential.  Let’s hope there are enough of them working in their traditional settings, and not fleeing to the consultancy or concierge route.

It is obvious the reason for this migration is due to the reduced payments these medical professionals are expecting from insurance reimbursements.  Many subscribers to healthcare advocacy and medical concierge practices, whether individuals or companies, are paying a set monthly fee per individual or employee.  This is where much of the money can be found in healthcare today.  Even investors want a piece of the action.  Just like the mysterious informant lurking in an underground garage in All The President’s Men told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, if you want to get to the bottom of what doesn’t look, sound, or feel right, “follow the money.”

As a patient healthcare advocate who is interested in growing a quality brand to fund a foundation which will provide healthcare advocacy and education to those in need, at no charge, I look at the ways some are re-positioning themselves in the medical field with the onset of the Affordable Care Act imminent, and wonder about their motivations.  I don’t begrudge anyone for wanting to make a comfortable living, but I do fear the spirit of the Affordable Care Act will be circumvented by the actions of some wanting to make much more.  Some people, it seems, can never have enough money.  This speaks to a void within themselves.  I wouldn’t be so concerned about this character deficit if it only affected the wealth-obsessed, but because it affects those unaware and vulnerable, this registers with me as a call to action.

Leaving another gaping hole in the traditional healthcare field (fewer doctors with privates offices, smaller staffs at hospitals, higher patient co-pays) will negatively affect those who will finally have the opportunity to obtain healthcare insurance.  These newcomers will not have the financial resources to access healthcare consultancy or medical concierge programs.  In the end, where will this leave them?  I my opinion, almost as bad as before they had secured medical insurance coverage.

These developments, for those newly insured and those migrating to healthcare consultancy and medical concierge practices, present both groups with a common concern:  When will the doctor see you?  I believe in-person visits will become less common.  When those visits occur, they will not likely be lengthy.  All the more reason to have a patient advocate by your side.  Generally the older we become, the more likely we will require in-person healthcare assistance.  A knowledgeable patient advocate by your side is invaluable in these situations.  Your advocate will know you as a real person, and ensure your medical needs are treated appropriately.

I fear those with newly purchased medical insurance will not likely be as comprehensively covered as people with existing policies (where premiums are rapidly rising.)  In general, I see life with the ACA in place more about many new players in the industry following the money (and looking for a return on an investment.)

NOW is the time for every medical consumer to become informed about your medical insurance options.  Education is crucial.  Unfortunately, statistics show most Americans feel they still lack a basic understanding about healthcare reform.  I assure you, while 99% of our population probably falls into this category, 1% are studying ways to generate huge financial returns in our new healthcare world.

Don’t become a victim by limited knowledge.  Get your healthcare strategy in order.  Understand there may come a time when you or a loved one needs more than an online visit with your healthcare consultancy service, call to your concierge physician, or just securing coverage from the medical insurance exchange.  Consult a patient advocate.  There are many knowledgeable and skilled professional patient advocates in the country who can help you.  These professionals owe their allegiance to you, not to investors.

It’s a sad commentary that we, as a society, appropriately question the motives of people investing in, and expecting to make big profits, off the introduction of mandatory universal healthcare coverage.  For me, it’s akin to taxing people’s intake of oxygen to stay alive.  Perhaps if enough successful capitalists embraced a strong social conscience as part of their life’s philosophy, our federal government would never have had to become involved in the universal healthcare access debate to begin with.  Imagine that.  If, by embracing the belief it’s laudable to succeed, but with that success comes the willing responsibility to look out for more than our immediate friends/family circle, perhaps as evolved human beings we could have taken care of our healthcare crisis before it ever reached a national political level.

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