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El Paso doctors offer membership fees, instead of taking insurance

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- A small number of Borderland doctors tell KFOX 14 that rising costs are making them rethink how they offer services to patients.

Some doctors are turning to something known as concierge care.

Instead of taking health insurance, they are offering membership plans which include shorter wait times, wellness assessments, and 24/7 access to the doctor's cellphone

Dr. Douglas Payne, an internal medicine doctor in El Paso first launched his membership fee program, My Wellness, on March 31.

"The thing that really pushed me over the edge so to speak, was the changes in Medicare that were part of the Affordable Care Act," Payne said.

Payne said at one time he only saw 20 patients a day. However, he said now he must see almost 40 patients a day to make the same profit he made before.

"I think if you asked almost any primary care doctor, they would feel more like a factory worker than a doctor most of the time, and the assembly line is people coming down the assembly line," Payne said.

Payne said after facing a recent decline in reimbursements from Medicare, he decided to start the program.

Through his "My Wellness" program, patients are now given the option of paying a monthly membership fee. The fees range from $69.99 to $119.99 a month. The membership package includes different services which include short waits, wellness assessments, and 24/7 access to your doctor.

The El Paso County Medical Society said they've seen at least a handful of doctors right here in the Borderland turn to concierge care.

However, a spokesperson for the El Paso Medical Society said one disadvantage of concierge care, is not having access to your doctor if you get sick out town.

"I can't see any real glitches in it, " said Teddy Lamb, a patient from Northeast El Paso.

Lamb said he doesn't mind paying the monthly fee at all.

"We can call and come in very, very quickly," Lamb said. "So there's not a delayed process."

Payne said he still takes insurance from patients who do not wish to be in the membership program.

"I feel like theres a real opportunity here to do things right, to be a good doctor and to help people" Payne said. "It's a little bit more expensive, but maybe thats the true value of it."

For more information on Dr. Payne's membership program, go to http://www.elpasomedicalgroup.com/my-wellness.