According to Internist Dr. David Fein of the newly opened Princeton Longevity Center in Fairfax, the advent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — more commonly known as Obamacare— will impel employers to take an active hand in promoting healthy life choices for their employees, inducing them to stay healthy as a way of keeping overall employer healthcare costs down.
According to Joanne Corte Grossi, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who lectured in Reston this month, obesity and smoking alone account for more than $300 billion a year in U.S. health care costs, and are the numbers one and two most preventable causes of death.
Simply reducing one can of soda from the daily intake of an average person can shed 15 pounds in a year’s time, Fein said.
“Healthcare reform will place an emphasis on being more proactive in preventing disease and at the same time, it will create two competing factors,” Fein said. “Uninsured patients will no longer use emergency rooms as their primary care and instead will begin to flood the offices of primary care physicians, who will see vastly increased numbers of patients, but re-imbursement rates will also be less, so physicians will need to see more patients to remain where they were before financially.”
According to Grossi, there are currently 51 million uninsured Americans.
Fein said that as primary care physicians see higher numbers of patients, the average time that most will be able to allocate to each patient could shrink from 10 minutes to three on an average visit.
“The result will be that patients will need to take a more active role in their own health care,” he said.
Fein created the original Princeton Longevity Center in New Jersey 10 years ago as a way of catering to those who want to do just that.
The newest center opened in Fairfax in September.
The center focuses on preventive medicine and an extensive array of individual testing tailored to each patient to determine very specific courses of preventive actions.
Using the latest in medical technology, Fein said many of the tests are virtual and therefore non-invasive.
For example, the center performs virtual colonoscopies, which do not require the standard invasive probing and also do not require anesthesia.
“Reports have shown that by looking at the colon in a three-dimensional model, the virtual procedure is as effective, or better, than the standard invasive one,” he said.
Fein said the center attempts to look past the ‘one size fits all’ mentality. “If we see a 51-year-old male with elevated cholesterol and a family history of heart disease, we will actually take a look at that patient’s coronary arteries and see if there is plaque buildup, as opposed to just prescribing a cholesterol pill and hoping for the best,” he said. “In addition to then knowing the best course of action for that individual patient, it also gives us a quantitative benchmark that we can then work with from that point on.”
The Princeton Longevity Center does not participate in any insurance plans.
“We will bill insurance companies for patient services but we are considered ‘out of network’ and patients typically will pay about 50 percent of costs themselves,” Fein said.
“That averages anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 but that is not necessarily an annual cost. Extensive testing is only performed every one to five years.”
Fein said that in between, patients continue to see their primary care physicians and are monitored by the center and offered ancillary services and counseling as needed.
“We are very much like a financial advisor,” he said. “You meet with us when you need to, and meanwhile we monitor your progress and make sure you stay on the right track.”