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Health care membership program offers patients insurance alternative

12:48 AM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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Members have access services like preventative care, lab work, and immunizations.

An East Tennessee primary care provider is now offering patients a new way to pay. The plan, he says, could cost much less than a traditional insurance plan.

"A lot of the patients that join don't have insurance of their own, or they have insurance but their deductibles are just so high," said David Brickhouse, a physician's assistant who runs several Prodigal Primary Care clinics around Knoxville.

The new program, Southeast Retained Medical, is membership-based. The current cost is $40-$50 per month, depending on a patient's age. Members have access to any service offered at facilities, like Prodigal, that participate. Those include preventative care, lab work, and immunizations.

Brickhouse says the concept of a membership-based program is not new, and compares his system to a service offered by some doctors, called "concierge medicine." Through it, doctors service a limited number of patients, who often pay very high fees to have access to their medical care around the clock, including house calls. Brickhouse says it's something only the wealthiest patients can afford, but he hopes his new program will offer some similar benefits at a much-reduced price.

"I believe it's going to significantly cut the cost for the small business owners, and also cut the cost for the employees so they can get that care that they've never been able to get," he said.

Several small business owners have already joined in to provide health care options to employees, including Harith Ourfali who recently opened a bar in the Old City called "Union Place."

"I looked at several different options, and health insurance is very expensive," Ourfali said. "And David came up with something that would work for me and my employees."

The program is still very new, and Brickhouse is not yet sure how pending changes to national health care laws will impact members. However, he expects to adjust where necessary.
    
"We're just waiting to see when January hits and the new laws go into effect, to see exactly what they're requiring."

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