Members-only practice to take over Bay Point

TRAVERSE CITY – When MembersHealth Medical Center opens Nov. 1 it will accept patients, but not insurance.

Dr. Jason Myers is the founder and president of MembersHealth. The new medical center will open its doors where Myers' Bay Point Family Care practice has been for the last several years, at the intersection of Front and Garfield.

Described as a "direct-to-consumer" provider of primary health care services, this model of care cuts out the "middle-man," or insurance providers, and the related administrative costs, Myers said.

For a monthly fee, patients or "members" can gain access to services not usually found in traditional medical practices: unlimited office visits with no co-pay charged or deductible to meet, same-day appointments, selected low-cost generic medications, and all the time you need with your physician.

Individual plans cost $75 a month, couples cost $140 and additional family members can be added for $5 each. While it can be used as a standalone plan for primary care services, this program does not replace a medical insurance plan, and doesn't cover emergency room visits, hospital stays, visits to specialists, and the like. Myers recommends that a membership be combined with a high-deductible plan, offering greater access to care at a more affordable price. He said potential savings could reach $1,500 for an individual, and $3,000 for a family when paired with such a plan.

The practice will be "very preventative-health oriented," Myers said, adding that good preventative care can catch or cure a problem earlier and at significantly less cost than if not diagnosed or treated until much later.

"This is an alternative to standard insurance-based healthcare," Myers said, adding that the model is most similar to "concierge medicine," except that concierge medicine focuses more on higher-end clientele.

Myers is joined in this new venture by Dr. Graham Kelly, a retired physician who will assist in the growth of the practice and develop preventative health protocols, and by Dr. Lorah Wright, who was a medical director at Bay Point. As the practice grows, physicians will be added, said Myers.

David Poinsett has been a patient of Dr. Myers' for several years and admitted when he first heard about the new practice it was "pretty shocking." But now that he fully understands it, he feels it could be a great option for him.

"I give them a lot of credit for the boldness of the idea," said Poinsett, who is in his mid-50s and is the research and development manager at R.M. Young Company in Traverse City.

He likes that the new plan will give him more time with his physician, despite the extra cost.

"Yes, it's an extra expense, but it seems worth it," Poinsett said, describing the pricing as "reasonable." He currently has health insurance with Priority Health and will continue that relationship.

The decision isn't as clear for Mike Kent and his wife, Maggie, who love their relationship with Dr. Wright yet are struggling to decide if they're going to join MembersHealth. As a couple, their annual membership fee would be just over $1,800.

"I understand what (they're doing) and why they are doing it, we just don't know if we can afford it," said Mike Kent.

They're both in good health, but that also means they don't require a lot of visits to their primary care physician. Kent added that he is in a good position to be a prospective member since he can pay the fee from his health savings account.

Myers said the practice will also target employers who, on average, can save several thousand dollars per individual employee when one considers the double-digit percentage increases in annual healthcare costs over the last few years, outpacing profit margins in many cases.

"The truth of the matter is that employers should be investing their money in primary care and preventative medicine," Myers said, adding that it is this kind of care that most employees need and not receiving it causes the most work absences. "It is the more simple urgent care and routine health needs, not hospitalization or surgery, that keep them at home."

A hallmark of this type of practice is "greater access and more time." Myers used to have to see four patients an hour to make ends meet. At MembersHealth, each physician will have between 700 and 800 patients, compared to the 2,000 that are considered average in traditional practices, as no dollar figure is attached to the time a physician is spending with a patient, Myers explained.

"For me it's attractive because I want to be proactive with my healthcare," said Jennifer Weil, a patient of Dr. Wright's who is excited to be joining a practice that is focused on "helping people take care of themselves."

"I believe in their integrity and their sincerity that they will be better able to serve patients," Weil said.

Over the long-term, Myers envisions having anywhere from six to 10 physicians and 6,000 to 10,000 patients at MembersHealth. As the membership pool grows, the plan is to expand services to include x-ray, lab, physical therapy, specialty care, and sub-specialty care.

Visit www.membershealthcare.com or call 935-0400 for more information.

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