The sliding scale as it was started in Portland, and how we practice it here at Philadelphia Community Acupuncture is $15-35. There is some wiggle room in the CAN guidelines for those who need to alter it slightly to fit their needs and still be in the network. This is a good thing, as not all of us will have rents like Portland or Philly.
However, I want to make it clear that $5 really does make a difference to the character of your practice and whom you will attract. I wouldn’t have thought it to be so, but my experience tells me otherwise. It makes a big difference.
Over the summer I had the great opportunity to cover for another community acupuncturist in my city. The sliding scale there is $20-35. The space is much smaller, and he sees less people per hour. I loved working there, his patients were wonderful and obviously appreciated him a lot. But it was different than PCA. It made me appreciate the PCA patients, their diversity and sheer number. There are many things that affect what type of patient is attracted to a certain clinic, including personality of the practitioner, location, etc. But the price is just as significant, if not moreso. When you are thinking of how to structure your sliding scale, make sure you take this into account. Are you willing to cut out all those people who can spend $15 at a time but not $20? Maybe you need to because the overheads in your area are too high, or because of how you choose to practice. But don’t pretend it won’t make a difference. It will change the face of your practice, which means it will change whom you are spending your time with. It will affect your numbers. Take that into account.
Here’s another allegory: I belong to two food coops, both in very diverse areas. One has amazingly low prices, as they have figured out how to use member labor to lower their overhead. The other doesn’t have such good prices, doesn’t require quite as much work from its members and doesn’t enforce those requirements as well. Guess which one has the constant discussions about “How can we make our coop more diverse?”