Photo by Les Stukenberg.
These days, folks with and without health insurance are pushing off routine health care visits because it doesn’t fit into their budgets.
They tremble with fear over what will happen to them and their families if they encounter a true medical emergency that might require a hospital stay.
Even those willing to pay for an annual checkup in the Prescott area find the lack of primary care providers leaves them waiting for months for an appointment or looking elsewhere for a doctor.
Nurse practitioner Rebecca Oldani and her partner, Debra Hiller, founders of the now 5-year-old Prescott Health Clinic located in a storefront style office complex across the street from the main campus of the Yavapai Regional Medical Center, are all too aware of these pressures and created a medical model of care to offer low-cost health care to those most in need.
The clinic for patients 10 and older is intended for those with no, or limited, health insurance. Yet they will take anybody because there are those with high-deductible medical insurance whose co-pays are so high they wait for treatment until they are so sick they end up at the emergency room, often the most expensive form of treatment for illnesses that did not require acute care.
The caveat at the clinic is that Oldani and Hiller take no insurance. An office visit is $43 and must be paid either in cash or by credit card.
The women, too, know their limitations.
They can do routine physicals and wellness checks, including sports physicals, pregnancy and STD testing, pap smears, birth control prescriptions, on-site blood work, strep throat testing, TB tests and other vaccinations and flu shots. They can treat minor illnesses, and help patients cope with some ongoing issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure treatments. They can handle simple depression, but they are not equipped for severe injuries, serious cardiac ailments or other advanced or specialty care, be it physical or emotional. They can fill staple medications, but do not dispense narcotics or other specialty medications that require constant monitoring by a physician.
Patient Sheila Dorsheimer, 59, of Prescott Valley is a nursery school owner with no medical insurance. A couple years ago, she came down with a virus and needed care, but wasn’t about to go to the emergency room for a sore throat and cough. She also could not wait several hours in an urgent care facility for treatment.
She had heard about the clinic, and opted to give it a try. She called for an appointment, and was able to get in within an hour or so and was diagnosed and given a prescription with the entire bill under $75.
Since then, Dorsheimer said her husband and daughter have become patients, and she has referred several of her employees; even those with insurance have found it is less expensive than it would be if they were required to cover a co-payment at a private medical doctor’s office.
“They always work me in; it’s a one-stop deal for me,” Dorsheimer said. “They’re sort of like a small town doctor. And it doesn’t bother me that they are nurse practitioners. They actually listen better.”
Oldani and Hiller opened the clinic after the one they ran at Yavapai College closed down.
They saw a real need for people, including students, who had no insurance to have some place to go for routine care, Oldani said. Much of their clientele — their annual census is about 3,500 patients with a total patient load of about 7,000 patients — remain those who cannot afford insurance, she said.
More and more, though, she said their new patients are people who simply cannot find a primary care provider but need a physical, or they need to be able to refill an ongoing medication, be it birth control pills, cholesterol medication or insulin.
The real focus of the clinic is to make certain low-income individuals and families get some type of preventive care, Oldani said.
Some of their patients do require more extensive testing than they provide, or more specialized care, Oldani said. If they opt against the higher cost care, Oldani said at least they have been some by someone with medical expertise who can monitor and advise them on such basics as nutrition, exercise and other healthy habits, such as smoking cessation.
“We have people come in with a sore throat and then we find they have high blood pressure,” Oldani said, noting these are conditions they can treat. “Sometimes if you can get someone on a medication it can prevent a bigger problem that ends up lowering overall health care costs.”
For more information or to make an appointment at the clinic, call 928-717-0724.
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