Tucson, AZ (PRWEB) September 5, 2008
Recent comments about the urgent steps needed to improve health care in the U.S. have landed one Tucson-based physician much controversy. Last week, after noted concierge physician Dr. Steven D. Knope gave a high-profile interview to The Arizona Republic about the benefits of concierge medicine in eliminating the interference of third party payers, Blue Cross/Blue Shield abruptly cut off care for all of his patients.
The backlash comes after several other similar tussles between insurers and concierge medical practices have resulted in censures by health care insurers, says Dr. Knope this week.
"BC/BS called me stating that they had read the story in The Republic and were canceling my contract. I've operated a concierge practice for eight years in Tucson and have had a contract with BCBS for 15 years. The reason they cited for the termination was 'a violation of the contract' in practicing concierge medicine," says Dr. Knope, known as a pioneer of concierge medicine having opened the first practice in Tucson in 2000. He is also the author of the new book, Concierge Medicine: A New System to Get the Best Healthcare (Praeger/Greenwood, 2008).
Insurers worried over the impact patients will have in a concierge medicine setting, are targeting for punishment many concierge medical practices, says Knope. "Interestingly, United Healthcare did the same thing to four concierge docs earlier this year in Texas. Other insurance companies, such as Humana, have gone on record as having no problem with concierge physicians. Clearly, concierge medicine is threatening to the insurance giants."
BC/BS's move is confusing. "I told the director of 'provider relations' that I have never charged BC/BS for any patients that I've seen under my concierge plan. By doing this, I've saved BC/BS thousands of dollars every year and provided their members with greater access and superior care. I have established this policy of not taking money from BC/BS or from any insurer as I never wanted to be accused of double-dipping (billing both the patient and the insurance company). However, I do see about 100 BC/BS patients OFF the concierge plan. These patients have been with me for many, many years. I lose money on these insured patients since BC/BS reimburses at such a low rate. I have kept them in my practice at a financial loss, so as not to force them to find a new doctor. I told BC/BS that this move would clearly impact my non-concierge patients and would force them to find a new doctor," notes Knope.
Knope is speaking out about the latest censure after receiving local and national media attention for his work as an uncompromising patient advocate and opponent of the HMO industry. His work has been covered in Money magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and many other national publications. In Knope's fight against a local HMO several years ago, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and inventor of the cardiac defibrillator, Dr. Bernard Lown, praised Knope as "courageous" and "deeply principled." Knope is a founding board member of The Society for Innovative Medical Practice Design, and has been a member of the editorial board of The American College of Sports Medicine's Health & Fitness Journal. SIMPD is a nonprofit organization of physician members advocating for the exclusion of third party payers, and the promotion of direct pay between patients and their physicians. Knope notes the concierge medicine will solve one of the more critical aspects of the impeding shortage of primary care doctors.
A graduate of Cornell University Medical College, Knope is also highly regarded national speaker on the subjects of obesity, fitness and exercise. Knope is an enthusiast of several fitness practices; a four-time Ironman triathlete, he is also a practicing martial artist and holds a 3rd degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.
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