CARRBORO – Kallie Norton moved to Carrboro from northern Illinois last fall to work at Youth Works, a nonprofit. She’s currently part-time, which means she’s not on the organization’s health insurance.
But recently, through a program by Carrboro-based Piedmont Health Services and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, she paid just $60 out of pocket for a primary care physician appointment plus lab work, at Piedmont.
“In previous companies where I was paying health insurance and out of pocket with a deductible, it wasn’t unusual to pay a few hundred for comprehensive bloodwork. I would’ve anticipated paying more,” Norton said on Tuesday.
Piedmont’s program provides an alternative, and a safety net for people like Norton, who are part-time, new to the area, or plain uninsured.
The program is offered to both full-time and part-time employees of chamber members, as well as their families. It’s also offered regardless of whether the patient has health insurance or is currently on another plan, and there is no extra fee to the chamber or the business. It’s a flat fee of $60 for primary physician care. The program does not include specialist services.
“It’s $60 a visit, including prenatal exam or newborn immunizations. Anything that you come here for, that if you went to your medical office and it needed to be seen by a physician, it would be $60,” said Debra Markley, project coordinator at Piedmont. For specialist services, Piedmont would refer the patient out, but the patient can still use Piedmont’s pharmacy under the same program.
The program started in 2009 and expanded into offering dental services in 2014. It has grown to about 430 users currently, with the bulk coming from the Chapel Hill chamber, and others from the chambers of Chatham, Alamance and Caswell.
Thinking back on how the program got its start, Brian Toomey, CEO of Piedmont, said it came about through conversations with chamber President Aaron Nelson, then it developed with a feasibility study from UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
“This was pre-Affordable Care Act, and the idea was about people who can’t afford health insurance –how do they see a doctor?” Toomey said.
“We think that most people don’t have all those extra dollars in their pocket, and we’ve heard about how people felt assured that this program was there if they needed to use it,” he added. “We have insured people who come here and see us.”
When asked to comment on the potential impact of the “repeal and replace” of the ACA this year, Toomey said he expects that there will be more uninsured people coming to Piedmont.
As for Norton, she expects that she will use the program again even if she eventually gets full insurance, just because she liked the service. “I had the [lab] results the next morning, which is really unusual.”
“Even though it’s $60 out of pocket, that’s still nice,” she added. “I’m pretty healthy, so I generally don’t come anywhere near the annual deductible. There is something to be said about paying this more minimal cost.”
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