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Wichita doctor opts for memberships instead of insurance policies

September 02, 2010|By Kim Hynes | KWCH 12 Eyewitness News

(WICHITA, Kan.) — House calls, text messages and web chats are the way a Wichita doctor plans to interact with patients... and he doesn't take insurance. It's a new concept in Wichita called concierge or boutique medicine. Thursday Dr. Josh Umbehr opened the first practice in Wichita called Atlas MD. It's the third concierge medicine facility in the state.

"We're really bringing that Norman Rockwell feel back to medicine," Umbehr said.  He's trying to change the way you think about going to the doctor. "We won't work directly with insurance companies, rather we'll charge a low monthly membership rate," he said. Depending on your age, that $50, $75 or $100 monthly membership gives you unlimited access to the doctor. "By not working with insurance companies, we can cut the red tape and broaden the way we can contact our patients," he said.

That means Umbehr isn't tied to an exam room. He'll chat with patients online, answer calls on his cell phone and even make house or work visits. "It's an option that allows us to slow down, provide care to a smaller number of patients with better quality and more convenient care," he said. Umbehr says the maximum number of patients he'll take is 400. He says doctors on average have several thousand patients.

Concierge medicine is not a replacement for insurance, instead Umbehr calls it a supplement for insurance. You still need an insurance policy for things like specialists, hospital visits and major medical events. Umbehr says for prescriptions and lab work, he'll charge the wholesale price which is often pennies on the dollar.

Umbehr says it's a different concept but so far people have been open to the idea. He believes in the long run it will save patients money and they'll have a better patient-doctor relationship. It's a 24/7 lifestyle for Umbehr. But he says doctors already work a lot and this will be more rewarding.

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