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Employers saving thousands on medical bills due to up-front pricing

OKLAHOMA CITY - A free market approach to healthcare is allowing Oklahoma patients to shop for procedures at one-tenth of the price of a traditional surgery.

“There are no layers, and we know what our costs are,” Darla Green, employees benefit consultant at Express Employment Professionals, said.

The Free Market Medical Association was started by these two like-minded Oklahomans.

“The price through a free market provider is so much lower that you don`t need to collect a deductible or coinsurance from your patient,” Jay Kempton, co founder of Free Market Medical Association, said.

Doctors and facilities provide a list of services and prices to patients or employers.

“We choose the one we want to use, and then they schedule it and they give us a voucher, and we have the procedure done and it's billed directly,” Green said.

Express Employment Professionals is one of 160 employers using FMMA. They're essentially self-insured, paying all employee medical bills out-of-pocket

Some say using this service can translate into savings as high as 80-percent.

Of course, the list of services is generally for procedures, not simple doctor's visits.

“In the first six months, we estimate we saved about $200,000,” Green said.

It all started at Surgery Center of Oklahoma where cofounder Dr. Keith Smith works. He sees 8,000 patients a year, many from out of state.

“You have people flying in to Oklahoma to have carpel tunnel surgery; a very minor surgery, 20 minute procedure, from Idaho and you add in what was the total cost of the lodging, the flight and we are still less than half the cost of what they would have paid at home,” Dr. Smith said.