The Hudson Valley pediatrician is standing by his offer in spite of the just-announced plan to temporarily reopen the government.
DOBBS FERRY, NY — Dr. Nitin Gupta, who runs Rivertowns Pediatrics in Dobbs Ferry, was following the news Friday about the government shutdown that is affecting 800,000 federal employees and its possible, but temporary, resolution. Gupta had been reading stories since the shutdown began about people who were going without pay and “it was like a punch in the gut.” His father was a state employee in California for more than 20 years and there were times when he was furloughed and money was tight. Gupta remembered when his family had to cut back on non-essentials, and said that it made them question whether they were sick enough to visit a doctor because they would have to shell out money for a copay. Gupta said to himself that no parent should have to do that. So he came up with the idea that during the duration of the government shutdown Rivertowns Pediatrics would waive its membership fees to federal employees who have been affected by either being furloughed or having to work without pay. “If you need to be seen, we will waive our membership fees,” Gupta said. “We just want their kids to be fine.” “If they want to pay for services when they are back on their feet, cool,” he said. “If not, cool.”
Gupta also reached out to Natural Fit Pharmacy in Irvington to see if they would be willing to provide prescriptions at cost or a lower cost for furloughed government workers, and they agreed. And in light of the events Friday afternoon with President Donald Trump announcing an agreement to reopen the government for three weeks, Gupta said he is still standing by his offer of free medical care if government workers face another furlough, as is Natural Fit Pharmacy.
Gupta’s practice isn’t the typical doctor’s office where patients come in with insurance cards in hand. He said he operates under a membership-based alternative payment system, called Direct Primary Care, for which patients pay periodic fees directly to the physicians for unlimited access to “primary care and prevention services,” according to information from the Direct Primary Care Coalition. Gupta likened it to a gym membership, in that you pay an affordable monthly fee and no insurance is accepted. “Why does medical care have to be that expensive?” he said. “If you need to see me 30 times in a month, then you need me.” His practice is relatively new; his doors have been open for about four months. Gupta feels that this is something he has to do. “I’m serving my community,” he said.
Gupta, M.D., F.A.A.P, is a board-certified general pediatrician. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences: Physiology and Metabolism from the University of California at Berkeley, he graduated from St. George’s University School of Medicine and completed his residency in pediatrics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School. He also trained at Weill Cornell Medical College in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.
By then, the dominant news was that the shutdown was about to come to an end—at least for the next three weeks. Did his offer still stand? Yes, said the doctor, noting that federal workers still didn’t have a paycheck and that the whole ordeal might return in three weeks if Congress and the president can’t come to an overall agreement on The Wall.