The state is trying to shut down a New York City doctor's ambitious plan to treat uninsured patients for around $1,000 a year.
Dr. John Muney offers his patients everything from mammograms to mole removal at his AMG Medical Group clinics, which operate in all five boroughs.
“I'm trying to help uninsured people here,” he said.
His patients agree to pay $79 a month for a year in return for unlimited office visits with a $10 co-pay.
But his plan landed him in the crosshairs of the state Insurance Department, which ordered him to drop his fixed-rate plan - which it claims is equivalent to an insurance policy.
Muney insists it is not insurance because it doesn't cover anything that he can't do in his offices, like complicated surgery. He points out his offices do not operate 24/7 so they can't function like emergency rooms.
“I'm not doing an insurance business,” he said. “I'm just providing my services at my place during certain hours.”
He says he can afford to charge such a small amount because he doesn't have to process mountains of paperwork and spend hours on billing.
“If they leave me alone, I can serve thousands of patients,” he said.
The state believes his plan runs afoul of the law because it promises to cover unplanned procedures - like treating a sudden ear infection - under a fixed rate. That's something only a licensed insurance company can do.
“The law is strict on how insurance is defined,” said an Insurance Department spokesman.
A possible solution that Muney's lawyer crafted would force patients to pay more than $10 for unplanned procedures.
They are waiting to see if the state will accept the compromise. Still, Muney is unhappy because, he said, “I really don't want to charge more. They're forcing me.”
One of his patients, Matthew Robinson, 52, was furious to learn the state was interfering with the plan.
“The whole point is, he [Muney] found a way of paying his rent, paying his workers, and getting to see patients for the price,” said Robinson.
“How can the state dictate you've got to charge more?”