ORANGE COUNTY: Doctor Offers Health Plan for Working Uninsured
Tired of watching uninsured working patients struggle to "hunt for the few free [county health] services ... or pay heavily for immediate attention," Lake Forest physician Dr. Claudio Bedoya opened a private practice in September and started his own medical plan, the Orange County Register reports. AFFORDCARE, Bedoya's health plan, offers a "low-cost preventive medicine health care maintenance plan to self-employed, temporary, part- time or minimum-wage workers who earn too much to qualify for Medicare or Medi-Cal but cannot afford individual health insurance." Bedoya explained, "I saw patients who were working, who could afford basic needs and basic care, but couldn't afford insurance." Under his plan, patients under age 40 pay $50 a month (prepaid quarterly) and receive unlimited visits to Bedoya's clinic, an annual medical exam, a "well-woman" or prostate exam, a vision screening, physician-discounted drugs and other services. Plans for those over age 40 cost $58 per month. Patients appreciate the innovation. "I much prefer being able to come for regular visits than having to 911 my health care," Betty Hopkins, an independent graphics designer, said.
In order for the plan to succeed, Bedoya must attract 1,500 patients within the next year, prompting many colleagues to call the venture "crazy." But Bedoya believes AFFORDCARE is an "affordable, viable option" and "would love to see more doctors return to the ideals" behind the idea: "helping others [and] making a difference." Marika Bonner, executive director of the Orange County Medical Association, said the plan is unique to the region. "We don't see a lot of innovation from the solo practitioner. But with our current environment, I suspect we will see more," she said (Hernandez, 11/28).