Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Here's a challenge for Karin Weldin Stewart: MedExpress is Highmark, and that's a problem for both Delaware consumers and business people

See? MedExpress even has a guy
in a Blue Hen costume to go along
with bazillions in advertising.
So by now you have seen or heard all the advertisements for MedExpress, the "neighborly place" to get urgent medical care.

And as I have said elsewhere about them,
Whenever you hear a corporation (banks also come to mind here) talking about being a good neighbor, you know you need to hold onto your wallet.
But that's not specifically germane to the question of why our Insurance Commissioner should be interested in them.

What's germane is that MedExpress is a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield Highmark, the good folks who just bought out the BCBS franchise for Delaware.  So for many of us, if we go to a MedExpress, no matter how friendly and how neighborly they may appear to be, we are really going to a subsidiary of our own insurance company for treatment.

This has some interesting implications, not just for patients, but also for other (some locally owned) urgent care centers around the state.

You see, among other things, according to what local physicians have told me, Highmark compensates other urgent care facilities seeing their patients at  $120/visit, but gives preferential reimbursement to their own facilities at $150/visit.

Moreover, MedExpress seems to be strangely immune to some of the technical legal niceties regarding whether or not you can own the lab attached to your own urgent care facility, and similar arrangements.

To the owners of other urgent care facilities (which includes Christiana Care, owning four in the area), MedExpress has made no bones about the fact that these clinics are coming into Delaware to do "Wal-Mart" on them--to use their incestuous corporate edge to drive their own prices down (temporarily) and drive everybody else out of business.

Of course, you can make your own estimate of where prices will thereafter go.

I wonder where the insurance commissioner is when the major carrier in the state slops over into providing medical care and then gives itself preferential compensation rates?

Oh, wait.  I forgot who the insurance commissioner is.  Never mind.

A note to forestall certain comments:  this is not a Libertarian whining for government intervention to correct the free market.  There is no free market here, there is a government-regulated market.  That's the only game in town.  This is a Libertarian pointing out that the government regulators appearing to be failing miserably at their jobs, and--as a result (no surprise!)--are privileging large corporations over local business people and entrepreneurs.

You claim to be able to run these markets in the public interest?  Then let's see you do it?

(And while you are at it, ask yourself whether the fact that Highmark/MedExpress is paying for massive advertising in the WNJ and on local radio has anything to do with why our dauntless media is not investigating this story.)

Final note:  if you want to find out about a true good neighbor urgent care facility in Delaware, check out Dr. Vince Schaller's Hockessin Walk-in.  Take five minutes to read about his operation and you will, frankly, drive right past the MedExpress the next time you need urgent care.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that "What's germane is that MedExpress is a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield Highmark, the good folks who just bought out the BCBS franchise for Delaware." is just a completely false statement. If you do a simple google search you'll see they own a mere 10% stake in the company and only recently acquired that. Other than that the rest of your post may very well be accurate but it seems most of your premise is based on the above assumption which is incorrect.

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