Friday, March 26, 2010

Recap: Pay What You Can Day

So despite my attempts to publicize the offer to provide "Pay What You Can" medical care for a day, I ended up seeing 4 patients that day (with one cancellation). The other doctor doing this with me, Dr. Tsai, also saw 4 patients, and we agreed that though the numbers seemed low, we were thankful not to have been overwhelmed by too many patients.

I think the patients I saw were grateful to receive medical care, and I was happy to help them and not worry about money. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most patients paid something for their visits, even though they didn't have to pay anything at all.

I may see some of these patients again, depending on what we can work out. I talked about potentially bartering services with one patient in lieu of cash.

Dr. Tsai and I weren't the only doctors doing "Pay What You Can Medical Day". Dr. Jean Antonucci in Maine also invited patients to come in for medical visits and pay whatever they could for a day. Here is the local TV coverage for her day:

And for those who can't watch the video, here is the link to the print version.

Some may argue whether it is even worth it to give away medical care for just one day and that patients don't get free labs, medications or follow up care.

For labs and mammograms, I directed patients to the cheapest facility that offered cash discounts. For medications, I prescribed $4 generics whenever I could. I will notify patients of their test results for free, but future visits would be negotiable.

Even humanitarian efforts such as sending medical personnel to Haiti after their devastating earthquake (where Dr. Tsai volunteered) or the Remote Area Medical event which helped 6,400 people in August 2009 and which is coming back to Los Angeles in April 2010 don't provide any long-term solution to medical care, but no one is arguing that these efforts are a waste of time.

We each do what we can to help others, whether it be to provide free medical care for a day, or committing your entire life to caring for the poor and sick, or just giving a word of encouragement.

Next year, I will get the word out sooner so that this event will be able to reach more people.