People often don't know much medical care truly costs and usually concern themselves with the co-pay required after an office visit. But the dark underbelly of insurance systems is that medical costs have skyrocketed and patients without medical insurance have to pay astronomical prices because of politics and not because of cost of care. This is one of the factors that led a Portland, Maine physician to stop accepting insurance, private or governmental, from his patients.

Dr. Michael Ciampi changed the policy in his office on April 1 of this year, knowing that he would be better serving his patients by not being told what to do by insurance companies and government health care systems. The doctor has posted prices of office visits and procedures on the website of his practice. What would seem astronomical, $150 for an office visit, is actually cheap if one considers how much is paid for health insurance in premiums each year.

Dr. Ciampi told the Bangor Daily News that of his 2,000 patients, only a few hundred decided to stop coming to the office because of the policy change. The doctor is free to now make house calls and charge affordable rates to patients who cannot afford health care. The doctor expects that his practice will make more money with the new policy in place, by attracting many who are self-employed, do not have insurance, or have insurance with large deductibles.

By collecting money from patients at the end of the visit, Dr. Ciampi no longer needs to spend money and time sending out bills or billing insurance companies. "If more doctors were able to do this, that would be real health care reform...that's when we'd see the cost of medicine truly go down," said Ciampi.

This change in policy comes after a government report showing that medical procedures at hospitals across the country vary widely. For instance, the same medical procedure could cost three times the amount between two hospitals only miles apart, and at some hospitals one pill of aspirin costs more than a bottle of 100 pills.  Insurance companies usually pick up the cost of these overpriced medical charges, raising the price across the board for those with no insurance and for those that pay for insurance premiums. 

Because Ciampi is a primary care physician, the price policy is not for emergency medical attention, only typical lab tests for diabetes, pregnancy testing, and EKGs, among other procedures.

To view the prices Ciampi charges on his practices, click here.