Is Chicago physician Mark Macumber a daredevil? A trailblazer? Or a physician with no other choice? In tonight's Closer Look, we have the answer: all of the above.
"Started out at $2,000, went to $4,000, then it went to $10,000, and then they told me it was going to be $20,000. But when I got the bill in the mail, it was for $40,000."
Dr. Mark Macumber is complaining about his medical malpractice insurance. The annual cost? More than the average Chicago household makes in a year.
"As long as we pay whatever is asked, they can ask whatever they want. I said, if I do that too, it's never gonna change."
Other doctors have changed their practices, changed locations, even changed careers. They've marched on the capitol and held symbolic strikes.
Dr. Macumber's prescription? He canceled his insurance policy.
"What possessed you to do this?"
"It certainly wasn't my dream to do this. Really, I didn't have too many choices."
Macumber says the idea actually came from his patients.
"I said, 'The only way I could still see you is if I didn't even have insurance.' And they didn't even hesitate. They said 'So what?' "
"I'm behind him 110%. And I told him that," says patient Diane Morioka.
"I thought, here's a guy with guts," agrees Alan Becker.
The move is gutsy, but very risky.
"You can sue me any time you want. But I don't have a million dollar insurance policy. I don't have a million dollars. I feel like I've got a million dollars in loans," Macumber explains.
"I don't feel it's a risk because I trust him," says Morioka. "When my kids--when they're too old to see their pediatrician, I'll take them to Dr. Macumber."
"I trusted my doctors. I never thought this could happen to me!" exclaims Gina Santoro-Cotton.
She knows trust can't pay for a lifetime of treatment and therapy.
"It's very expensive to raise a child like Joey," she says.
Her six-year-old was left severely brain damaged by her doctors' mistakes during childbirth. Joey received $10 million for his care.
"I don't know if Joey would be here today with us if I didn't have that," Santoro-Cotton says.
"You think this doctor's crazy!"
"I definitely do. I think he needs to get into my shoes and see what I've been through, what I've done."
Dr. Macumber does remind his patients: he's only human and can make mistakes. But they're just happy he spends more time and charges less per visit. His practice is thriving.
"I'm seeing people who are frustrated by their insurance and just giving up on the whole system and now have someplace to go," he says.
Like Dr. Becker, a dentist and new patient, who can relate to high insurance rates.
Dr. Macumber has become a virtual outcast in the medical world. With no malpractice protection, he's lost his hospital privileges and cannot bill insurance companies. Banks won't deal with him, either. He was forced to take out a home equity loan to open his modest office on Harlem Avenue.
"I don't have to hire a staff to sit there and check people's insurance, verify their eligibility, submit the claims, argue with the insurance companies," Macumber explains. "The medicine I'm doing today is more rewarding than anything I've done before."
Dr. Macumber is not alone. In Miami, nearly one in five doctors now practice without insurance. But conditions are not so critical everywhere. According to one USA Today report, the average doctor spends more on rent than insurance.
© Fox Television Stations, Inc. All rights reserved.