New healthcare marketplace in Houston offers lower-cost, self-pay doctor visits

If you lost your health insurance along with a job this year, you may find lower-cost healthcare options through a new self-pay platform in Houston.

Sesame is an online marketplace of doctors who offer their services for set, out-of-pocket prices, often less than what you might pay with insurance. 

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First started in Kansas City, it launched in Houston today.

Let's say you need an MRI and you have insurance.

"If you go to many facilities for an MRI, you'll be quoted a price that can be in excess of $2000," said Sesame co-founder and CEO David Goldhill.

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But if you're uninsured, or have insurance with a high deductible or co-pays, you can instead pay a set price directly through www.SesameCare.com.

"If you're willing to pay upfront and looking to pay directly, you may find MRIs between $275 and $450.  That's a massive saving and from a great clinician," said Goldhill.

Sesame is an online marketplace with about 100 Houston medical providers in a wide array of fields.  Goldhill says the site vets the doctors.  Patients can see prices upfront and book an appointment to see the doctor either online or in person.

"People come for everything from telemedicine, which you'll often see priced as little as $25, $35, to regular primary care appointments, to all sorts of tests and diagnostics," said Goldhill.

Many of these providers already accept direct-pay patients, such as radiologist Dr. Cristin Dickerson with Green Imaging.

"We're able to save self-pay patients sometimes 70%, or even greater, from hospital-based imaging prices," said Dr. Dickerson.

And the site helps doctors fill appointments left vacant during the pandemic.

"It gives them the opportunity to fill those appointments and get cash flow in.  This is money the same week, not six to eight weeks down the line with traditional insurers," Dickerson explained.

Goldhill says Sesame lets doctors cut that red tape and helps patients get the care they need.

"I think we're a good alternative for people to find care when they don't have coverage," Goldhill said.  "But most of our people do have coverage.  It's just that the deductibles are so high or the cost-sharing is so high that we wind up being a better option."