Summerlin doctor offers patients without insurance reduced-price surgeries

No medical insurance? No problem. Summerlin surgeon Kevin Petersen deals on a cash or credit basis , something he implemented in 2006.

That option, plus his personable approach, has patients showering him with cards, letters and personal notes of thanks. He receives something every week, his staff said. Petersen keeps them all.

Some patients get creative with their thanks.

One brought in fresh produce from his farm in California. Another, a missionary in Asia, arranged for the doctor to be officially blessed by the Dalai Lama. The decree is framed and on the wall of his waiting room.

Perhaps the oddest gift was a rock from a Summerlin man .

"It’s a really pretty rock," said Kari Christopher, Petersen’s administrative assistant. "Personally, I think it’s an odd gift, but the doctor really likes it."

The rock sits on his desk as a paperweight.

The reason for the gifts is that Petersen has made a difference in people’s lives.

His patients include Howard Engle of Arizona. Engle, a carpenter, was in pain from a double hernia but had no health insurance. He expected the surgery to cost between $6,000 and $8,000.

Instead he was told one side would cost $13,000, but the hospital would "cut him a deal" — $20,000 for both sides.

"I told them I didn’t need a heart transplant, I just needed my hernia fixed," he said.

He also told them goodbye. He found Petersen online and had his surgery done in Summerlin for $5,000.

Spencer Wright, 47, quit his job two years ago to focus on writing books. He opted not to buy health insurance, figuring it was essentially money down the drain. But an old sports injury came back to haunt him.

"I knew something was wrong and that I’d have to deal with it eventually," he said. "I’m not one to go to the doctor much. If I’m sick, I just tough it out."

He was looking to pay $12,000 to $15,000 until he did an online search and found Petersen’s site. Wright said the surgeon’s intelligence, no-rush attitude and willingness to explain things impressed him as much as the $5,000 price tag. The surgery was done in March, two weeks after he contacted the doctor’s office.

Petersen implemented the cash-basis way of working after patients told him how much their bills were.

"I was shocked, in particular, by what the hospitals were charging — $10,000 when I knew it was routinely $2,000," he said.

A local cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Michael Edwards, mentioned that doctors in his field agree to a base price for use of a facility and also had an agreement with an anesthesiologist.

"My doctor friends told me I was crazy … one of them asked, ‘It’s got to be illegal, isn’t it?’ " Petersen said.

Not only was he not crazy, he was no longer working 100-hour work weeks and taking emergency calls at night. Now it’s 50-hour work weeks and no calls to disturb his sleep.

Besides treating people without insurance, he sees people with high deductibles who opt to bypass using their insurance.

"If you’ve got a high deductible, like a $10,000, I’m the doctor you want to come to because I’ll charge you $5,000," he said.

As of five years ago, patients also can arrange to pay in installments using an outside credit company.

As for his latest patients, Engle is back home in Arizona, enjoying life with his wife, Lynn. Wright finished his manuscript and is looking for an agent. He said he was glad he went to Petersen for the surgery.

"You’re not just sitting at home, worrying," Wright said.

Petersen said that offering a package price is more in keeping with his intrinsic desire to help people.

"People will tell me that, frankly, I saved their life," he said. "I’m moved by their gratitude."

And they relay that gratitude with more cards and letters and, sometimes, those interesting gifts.

Petersen’s practice is at 653 N. Town Center Drive, Suite 314. For more information, call 866-442-5409 or visit noinsurancesurgery.com

Contact Summerlin and Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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