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Patients Soliciting Bids From Doctors Online

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Lang, 66, needed minor sinus surgery after an earlier procedure failed. His ENT told him the procedure would cost $3,000 and would be performed in a surgery center under anesthesia. Lang thought both the charge and the anesthetic were excessive and decided to try Medibid.

A few days after his request was posted, he received several bids and chose the lowest -- an ENT in Tampa, a two-hour drive away. The doctor agreed to perform the operation in his office for $362 using a local anesthetic.

"The man was well-qualified, and I'd seen videos of this procedure on YouTube," Lang said. "To me it's a low-risk procedure." Had he opted for the first choice, he said, he would have owed $2,600 out of pocket -- his $2,500 deductible plus 20 percent of the remainder.

Far From Home

Francisco Velazco said his family thought he was crazy when he told them he planned to have major knee surgery 3,000 miles from home in Virginia, a place he'd never visited and where he knew no one. His mother, he said, begged him not to go and insisted they could borrow money for surgery in Seattle. But Velazco said he felt confident in the online approach; he sold his car to raise money and received help from relatives and an employer to pay Grant's $7,500 fee and the additional $1,000 he spent on airfare, a bus ticket, lodging and other expenses.

Velazco flew from Seattle to Durham, N.C., where a cousin lives, and then took a six-hour bus ride to Charlottesville. A day or two before surgery he met Grant and underwent a pre-op physical.

The Charlottesville retiree from whom he rented a room via Airbnb, turned out to be a godsend: He drove Velazco to medical appointments and cooked him breakfast during the two weeks he recuperated.

Grant visited Velazco twice while he was recovering and helped arrange physical therapy. "This was my first Medibid case," the surgeon said, "and I was certainly invested in wanting this to be a positive experience for everybody."

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Fri, Aug 1 2014

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