More patients signing up for memberships to go to the doctor

1 year 1 hour 13 minutes ago Monday, November 19 2018 Nov 19, 2018 Monday, November 19, 2018 11:19:00 PM CST November 19, 2018 in News
By: Emily Spain, KOMU 8 Anchor
loading

COLUMBIA - It's a similar idea to paying a monthly fee for Netflix or a membership to a gym, but instead, it's for 24/7 access to a primary care doctor with no health insurance required. It's called direct primary care and it's growing in popularity in Columbia. 

"Our hypothesis is we can do as good of a job for a lower price point and the fact that we have new patients every single day tends to suggest that we're right," Dr. Adam Wheeler, with Big Tree Medical Home, said.

The direct primary care clinic opened its doors just over a year ago in the fall of 2017.  It shares space with Tiger Pediatrics where Wheeler also works as a pediatrician. Wheeler said the number of patients Big Tree has is growing by 15 to 20 percent every month.

Big Tree Medical Home offers several different monthly plans. The basic plan is $59 a month and it includes unlimited office visits and patients can contact the clinic  anytime. Patients can also get medications at wholesale prices, like a month of diabetic medication for $1 and discounts on labs as low as $4. The practice also offers monthly membership plans that include vision and dental exams.

"Those of us that went into health care did it because we like helping people and so this system really allows that to happen," Wheeler said.

He came up with the pricing for the clinic by looking to something all of his patients seemed to be able to afford.

"I very much went to a cell phone store and pulled out their plans and I wanted to have pricing that was cheaper than a cell phone plan," he said. "Even my patients who live out of their car have cell phones."

Wheeler said many of his patients could not afford health insurance premiums.

"People are desperate for care," he said. "We talk to people all the time that are paying $400 to $600 a month for their health care premiums...they were faced with if I can't afford the premiums, then I can't afford to care, so we are trying to slide in and say, there's a third option." 

It was exactly the option Robin Pittman was looking for after she left her 22-year career with a Fortune 500 company to become a realtor. She didn't have a company helping pay for her health insurance coverage anymore. 

After paying monthly premiums between $600 to $800 a month, Pittman said she decided to go without health insurance. Then, she heard about Big Tree.

"I felt it was a little too good to be true because it answered all my prayers and questions I needed for healthcare. And I signed up immediately," she said.

Pittman has been with Big Tree since the practice opened and said its three doctors have met all of her needs.

"They helped me be a healthier me. I'm more at ease if something comes around the corner," she said.

A few miles away, Dr. Bridget Gruender leads another direct primary care practice in Columbia called Liberty Family Medicine. It opened in 2016 and for the first time since opening, she's hiring to meet the growing demand.

"They're like, 'Hold on a second, for $50 to $75 a month I get to have full access to you whenever I need you, there's no co-pays, medicines are cheap, labs are cheap, it's too good to be true.' They're always waiting for the catch. There's no catch," Gruender said.

She said she's glad she no longer has to deal with the headache of insurance.

"You cut through all the red tape, you don't have people telling you what you can and cannot do, and you offer patients what they need at a good price," Gruender said.

She said her practice can instead focus on the relationship between doctor and patient, calling that the heart of Liberty Family Medicine.

Both Gruender and Wheeler agreed their services shouldn't completely replace health insurance. They still recommend their patients have some kind of catastrophic coverage. But, Big Tree patients make 90 percent fewer trips to the ER compared to the general Boone County population, according to Wheeler.

Critics of the direct primary care model argue if patients already get insurance through their employer and they pay for a membership, then they're essentially getting double billed.

A rep for America's Health Insurance Plans, a national association for insurers, told the Chicago Tribune this year that direct primary care practices could make healthcare more expensive by disrupting the sick to health ratio that insurers rely on.

The rep argued it could be problematic if patients wait until they're seriously ill to buy insurance, according to the paper.

But, for patients like Pittman, direct primary care is peace of mind at the perfect price.

"I think it will be the new trend in medical treatment for entrepreneurs and people that are self-employed like myself," she said. "You can go do what you want to do and enjoy and feel like you have all your bases covered."

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri is looking for community input in its search for a new vice chancellor of... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, November 19 2019 Nov 19, 2019 Tuesday, November 19, 2019 3:28:00 AM CST November 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Fifteen University of Missouri students got the chance to pitch their business ideas Monday in hopes of receiving... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 6:39:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s new anti-meth campaign featuring people of different ages and races saying “I’m... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 6:26:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council will approve the Magnolia Falls Park Improvement Project tonight. The park is located... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 5:29:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
SWEET SPRINGS – Imagine not having a doctor of any capacity in your town. Bruce and Melissa Eckhoff, along... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 4:40:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Federal authorities have charged 20 people with conspiring to distribute heroin and fentanyl in the... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 4:07:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A second charge has been filed against Joseph Elledge for child abuse. He has been charged with... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 3:43:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
WEBB CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say two people were found shot to death at a dentist’s office in... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 2:53:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
MARIES COUNTY - The Gasconade County Sheriff's Office added another "Most Wanted Fugitive" to their list Monday. Shay Vinson,... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 2:43:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Governor Mike Parson announced the launch of the state's "Clear the Air" campaign on Monday, bringing attention... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 2:29:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
HALLSVILLE - More than five units of the Boone County Fire Protection District responded to a house fire on Mt.... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 2:26:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Hundreds of containers — many carrying hazardous materials — have floated into Missouri since flooding in... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 12:19:03 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
DUNCAN, Oklahoma (AP) — Two men and a woman were fatally shot Monday outside a Walmart store in southwestern... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 12:08:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
OSAGE BEACH - Police arrested two people Friday after searching a room at the Osage Village Inn and finding drugs... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 10:51:00 AM CST November 18, 2019 in News
ST. MARTINS (AP) — Authorities say one person has been wounded in a road-rage incident in central Missouri. ... More >>
1 day ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 7:44:00 AM CST November 18, 2019 in News
MOBERLY - Prosecutors charged a man Monday with one count of child abuse after police said he hurt a 10-month-old... More >>
2 days ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 4:20:00 AM CST November 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council on Monday night authorized the method for constructing the Columbia Regional Airport along with... More >>
2 days ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 12:48:00 AM CST November 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - After years in the making, Columbia City Council will be one step closer in deciding the final steps... More >>
2 days ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 7:05:00 PM CST November 17, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 41°
7am 40°
8am 45°
9am 50°
10am 55°