BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
In January 2022, International Health Providers clinic will launch an additional plan — IHP Direct Primary Care — aimed to encourage uninsured individuals to have healthcare, as well as appeal to employers and small businesses.
A transition back to direct primary care began in Seattle, Wash. in the mid-1990s. It is attractive to clinics not only because it encourages wellness, but payments are direct to the clinic rather than through the federal government or HMOs. In addition, it encourages regular utilization of medical services.
Dr. Hieu T. Campus of IHP told the Journal it also allows patients to budget for healthcare. “We have a lot of self-pay patients. Sometimes they have to fork out a lot of money. We see them a lot; the membership would actually help them.” For people who work, but make too much to profit from Medicaid, or quit working because of that, he said, “Maybe we can find a way where you don’t have to have that difficult decision in life and be a reasonable, affordable solution or alternative.”
The plan will not only encourage wellness, but will manage care of those individuals who have potential or existing conditions. Campus said it will not only encourage people to have a standard of care, but will also let them know what they need. And if — for example a patient’s lab work is fine and that patient only needs a repeat prescription, direct care can offer those efficiencies, he said.
IHP Direct Membership offers annual registration fees of $150 for adults, with a monthly fee of $99; and annual registration rates for children of $80. Children aged 13 to 17 pay a monthly fee of $45 and those 12 and younger a monthly fee of $35.
What that gives patients is a significant list of services including annual physicals, urgent care visits (see www.ihpmedicalgroup.com), with a $10 co-pay. Services not covered are offered at a discount, and third-party vendor usage is separate. “We are hoping to work with them on better pricing,” Eveline Campus, vice president of business development and marketing at IHP, said. The clinic is already taking enquiries and will launch the initial membership group some time in December.
Membership could also prove attractive to employers offering limited insurance plans, or none.
Eveline Campus said she understands the challenges business owners face with the cost of healthcare, particularly in the hospitality and tourism industry now. “It’s hard for them, because they’re compassionate people and they want to offer something to their employees,” she said. Employers see that employees need healthcare, Eveline Campus said.
“A big portion of this will be partly working with small businesses, so they can continue to run their businesses and take care of their employees. At the end of the day, production is all based is all based on how healthy their employees are.” When employees or their children are sick that impacts the bottom line, Eveline Campus said.
IHP is busy, but there is a need in the market for direct primary care, Hieu Campus said.
“It’s our conversation with our business friends that put a catalyst to this. … Every time this topic comes up, their eyes light up and they say, ‘I would totally sign up for that. Please build that.’”
IHP also unveiled an annual wellness check on Nov. 23. Eveline Campus said for people without insurance, this is one offering “at the very least you should be able to get.” A onetime annual screening, including diabetes and cholesterol checks will cost under $200. The clinic continues to offer primary care such as flu shots at businesses, to include at barracks for construction employees. Last year, employees came to the clinic for drive-through shots, due to restrictions. Family members are encouraged to participate. “We want to continue that trend of corporate healthcare — a push to ensure that their employees are healthy,” Eveline Campus said. Some insurers work with them for that, she said.
As a primary care clinic, “I guess our focus is preventative care medicine,” Hieu Campus said. IHP also cares for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension and is also an urgent care clinic.
To meet demand and support its mission of access to all healthcare, IHP offers patients wide appointment options. “We extended our access, so we have after-hours access,” Campus said.
Rebecca Balajadia, clinic manager, said the practice is busy. “We’re doing quite well.” COVID-19 affected IHP, Campus said, with a focus on testing. “It changed it,” he said. “We were busy, but in a different way.” When restrictions were lifted, regular patients returned.
IHP opened in 2013 in Harmon Loop Road. “We acquired it officially July 2019,” Campus said. Previously Campus was a family medicine doctor at the American Medical Center. Eveline Campus, vice president of business development and marketing at IHP, joined the practice from GTA, where she was recently vice president of marketing. Balajadia has been at IHP since 2014 and says her role is operational. “I deal a lot with the daily clinic operations, the staff, the patient services and providers.”
The clinic accepts all local insurances, plus TRICARE, Medicare, Medicaid and Aetna.
COVID nipped in the bud a promising clinic expansion. IHP recruitment from off-island began in the last months of 2019. Guam went into lockdown in mid-March 2020, with the first positive case confirmed March 15. “We were poised to grow,” Campus said. Four practitioners had signed contracts and were licensed in Guam. He said, “The next day — seemingly — COVID hit and they all canceled — four fantastic people.”
Although the clinic is well staffed with about 30 personnel, Campus said the expansion is back on the table to find doctors or nurse practitioners (licensed to see patients) in primary care and family medicine. “That’s where we’re at now; now that things have started to turn back to normal … we’re back to re-recruiting; getting back to where we were about a year and a half ago.”
A nationwide shortage in that area does not help.
As to local medical care, he said, “We’re underserved here in Guam. Since I moved back here almost 10 years ago — and even before that — there’s not been enough doctors. There’s more patients than everyone can see.”
Drawn to primary care, Campus said, “That’s how you save lives. It’s not as heroic as open-heart surgery but that’s how you save lives. You identify that first cancer early where it’s a snip, snip instead of radiation and a mastectomy and spread. That’s my role in the community — to promote good health.”
Campus said the clinic’s mission is to ease and improve the situation, so that patients can be seen and staff are not overly stressed. “There’s a difference between quality and quantity.” While IHP aims for quality, he said, “We don’t turn anyone away.” With a busy appointment system and walk-ins, Campus said, “You end up with those patients that understand and don’t mind waiting.”
That situation should better in time. Difficult though it is in Guam, he said, “My goal is to improve that by recruiting.” mbj