Health Center Signs First Firm

November 14, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — The West Michigan Center for Family Health (WMCFH), which hung its shingle out five months ago, recently signed its first business client.

As of two weeks ago, Master Plaster Patchers began saving 70 percent on annual medical coverage for its six workers and their eight dependents. The company at 336 Hall St. SE had its cost for employee health benefits take a steep nosedive, free-falling from $60,000 a year to $18,000 by making the switch from a traditional plan to WMCFH.

That gaping difference of $42,000 a year works out to be a monthly savings of $3,500.

Master Plaster Patchers now pays $3,500 a year to WMCFH for primary care for its group of 14, as the center charges each individual member $250 annually, and $14,500 a year for a catastrophic policy from Fortis Health, one of a handful of insurers that has a working relationship with WMCFH.

The policy Master Plaster Patchers chose has a $1,000 deductible, a co-pay for specialists or physicians not aligned with the center, and a prescription drug card. And even though the firm left a plan that had a lower $250 deductible, employees should still save on their out-of-pocket costs because the annual fee to the center covers their primary care without any co-pays.

"Actually people will have less deductibles than they did before," said Beth Boltinghouse, founder and owner of WMCFH.

"This company actually pays 100 percent of their insurance. And they're saying they can cover every single person who is insured and pay the whole deductible for them, the whole $1,000, and the premium, and still save 50 percent over what they were paying," she added.

Boltinghouse said she has an informal reciprocal agreement with a number of agents that offer catastrophic policies. So when business owners come to her for primary care, she can refer them to those agents for catastrophic coverage, and when agents have someone looking for primary care, then they can suggest WMCFH.

"I work with several different insurance agents who will write the catastrophic piece for people. I helped set that up for them, but I don't have any ownership in that piece," said Boltinghouse, who is also president of QCI Nurse Specialists.

WMCFH opened for business in early June by charging patients a flat annual fee, which entitles them to checkups, physicals, illness management, simple surgeries and other primary treatments. The center offers x-ray services and has Bill's Pills, an insurance-free pharmacy owned by William Overkamp, in its building at 1425 Michigan St. NE.

Boltinghouse handles the daily business operations, while Dr. John Lemke serves as medical director. JoLynn Mulder recently joined the staff at WMCFH. Mulder is a nurse practioner who is certified in obstetrics and gynecology.

But the services offered by WMCFH and the coverage offered through the insurance agents aren't only available to small firms like Master Plaster Patchers. The center welcomes companies with hundreds on the payroll to inquire about both.

In fact, Boltinghouse told the Business Journal that she has a couple of large companies who are looking to offer these services to their part-time people who don't qualify for the full health benefits package because they don't work enough hours.

"The primary care piece can be offered because it's not an insurance product and can be offered on its own," she said. "The other companies that we work well for are those that are self-funded, because we're much easier to budget and they know what they will be paying for primary care."

Still, other small companies are considering coming aboard and Boltinghouse is hopeful that the savings the center's first official business client will reap will motivate other firms that feel they need to trim their benefits cost to make the move.

"We have signed several entrepreneur, single-person businesses, but this is the first one that has actually signed on the dotted line, if you will, and made the switch. We have several that are looking at doing that, but they were the first ones to do it," she said.

"And I really think that now that I can show them exactly the potential for savings, there will be a lot more companies willing to look at it."

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