Primary care: Bucking HMOs, one area doctor sets out on his own
Dr. Will Schupp believes in health care the way it used to be: affordable and personal. He recently opened his own practice using a direct primary care (DPC) model that he believes will prove less costly for patients and offer unlimited, direct access to him as their physician.
His overhead is low, with two examination rooms and one certified nursing assistant. “In a traditional clinic, there usually are about four support staff for each doctor. Usually, that involves a couple of people who pretty much just try to extract money from the insurance company and make sure the billing is working okay and the clinic is running smoothly,” Schupp said.
The DPC model is decidedly different. He is not part of any HMO or other physicians group, and insurance companies are not involved, so there are no co-pays. Rather, patients pay him a monthly fee (for example, $50 per month for patients age 40 and older) that covers several common office procedures and lab tests and can reduce costs for other, select procedures. Traditional office visits are covered.
“If I joined a traditional physicians group, the overhead expenses would be too high for me to charge what I am charging,” he said.
Serving all age groups, Schupp has all the equipment necessary for basic primary care, including an EKG machine, and when patients need further treatment elsewhere, such as labs and X-ray facilities, he’ll be transparent about the costs. “This is one area where I will save patients a lot of money,” he said, “by charging them for the cost of the lab, not the insurance price.” The difference, he said, can sometimes amount to over $200 per test.
He’ll also limit his patient load to 500 individuals — which he says is one-fourth the size of a typical family doctor’s load — allowing patients more time to interact with him directly or online, and if he needs to, he will make house calls.
Schupp’s DPC model specifically targets individuals who purchase their own insurance, or small businesses that may only be able to afford high-deductible insurance plans for their employees.
“With high-deductible insurance, there really is no health care other than for catastrophic events such as hospitalizations or visits to the ER,” he explained, “so it doesn’t really fix the underlying problem of getting people health care, especially working people who can’t afford it.
“My practice is like having a co-op with your doctor,” he said, noting that it combines a high-deductible insurance plan with a health savings account. “I can handle 95% of the problems that bring people to a clinic.” However, he will not be offering prenatal or hospital care.
Schupp, 30, an Iowa native, spent three years as an accountant before attending med school at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and serving a residency in Madison. His new practice will require expertise in both fields.
“Usually, it can cost around $50,000 or more to start something like this,” Schupp said. Luckily, his costs were less than half that ($20,000) because he was able to borrow equipment from his father and grandfather, both physicians. In fact, the blue exam tables he’s using were built during World War II.
“They come from an era of medicine when doctors took time with patients,” Schupp said.
That’s something he looks forward to doing as part of his new practice.
Will Schupp, M.D.
1334 Applegate Road, Madison, 53713
(608) 515-9078 | willschupp.com
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