By Nancy Tannler
In 2011 the Patient/Physician Cooperative (PPC), was founded in Portland by citizens and volunteers interested in making a positive impact on the health of the uninsured in Oregon.
The PPC provides people direct access to basic healthcare needs and routine checkups at an affordable rate.
The Southeast Examiner spoke with Morgan Butler, PPC Community Outreach, to find out more about how the coop works, especially now that we have the Affordable Health Care (AHC) in effect.
“PPC is not insurance, it’s about ongoing healthcare,” he said. “Many of the newcomers to the AHC insurance have the bronze plan that’s mostly for catastrophic coverage. They don’t always include regular wellness check-ups.”
PPC is a non-profit co-op that connects you directly to a doctor or dentist of your choice. Primary Care Providers specialize in traditional western medicine, integrative, alternative and holistic care (including MDs, Naturopathy, Acupuncture Chiropractics and more). They have specialists in dental, vision, mental health and women’s health/midwives. Portland PPC has 80 health care providers and clients with pre-exisiting conditions are not denied.
One of the basic benefits of PPC Membership is patient advocacy. In the event of an emergency room visit or hospital stay, the organization will act as a mediary and negotiate with you and for you, after the fact, to bring down the bill to medicare equivalent rates.
In the event of a hospital stay, the co-op makes sure all doctors and specialists involved in your care are sharing the same information and that your needs and wants are being represented.
Sheila Baraga, former owner of the Green Room, Empire Room, Sapphire Hotel, and other neighborhood spots, said she had a billing issue after a recent visit to Urgent Care and Morgan, with member services, called the clinic and fixed the error straight away.
Baraga found out about the PPC from a poster in Floyd’s Coffee Shop on SE Morrison. She signed up for Plan B where you choose a provider and have no co-pay visits with discounts on services. Her plan covers in-network Naturopaths, Chiropractors, Acupuncture, Urgent Care and discounts on labs at NCNM.
“I would say that the combination of PPC and either catastrophic or disability insurance would be the best security for someone,” Baraga said.
One of the co-ops medical doctors, Dr. Kerry Pulliam M.D., spoke with The Southeast Examiner about being a family physician in the program.
She learned about the PPC from Dr. Elissa Mendenhall, a naturopath at the Amenda Clinic. “I decided that it seemed like a good way to provide services to uninsured patients, which is important to me,” Dr. Pulliam said.
She currently sees four patients and works with a naturopath (Carrie Baldwin-Sayre), acupuncturist (Lucy Yeo), Massage therapist-nutritional counselor (Shawn Kinsella), Yoga therapist (Minga Lily), Craniosacral therapist (Valerie Vala) and counselor (Keely Helmick).
They refer to and consult with each other, and discuss options for patients’ care regularly. “It has been really great to get to work with these other amazing providers to provide more complete and thorough care for our patients,” she said. Dr. Pulliam is currently finishing her credentialing with the Oregon Health Co-op, part of the AHC.
As a family doctor she sees people from two days old to the end of life. She believes you can provide better care for people when you know what is going on with mom, dad, brother, and maybe even grandma. Her concerns for the AHC Plan is that with all the people applying for health care there aren’t enough primary care providers to be able to provide that care.
Dr. Jennifer Curtiss, N.D., joined PPC two years ago on a trial basis because it coincided with her practice to keep healthcare affordable. Over time, her affiliation with PPC has been beneficial both financially and in her ability to help people get and stay well.
Dr. Curtiss is a primary care practitioner specializing in family medicine, and working with children and their moms. Sheila Baraga is one of Dr. Curtiss’s clients and very pleased with the care she has received here.
Naturopathy is based on the theory that diseases can be treated or prevented with diet, exercise, supplements and massage. “I can prescribe drugs and surgery when necessary,” Dr. Curtiss said.
She works with the network of doctors in the PPC system as well as referring patients to other specialists if needed. “What I like about my practice is that I am able to spend time with my patients, generally an hour,” she said, as opposed to the sixteen minutes allotted for a visit to most physicians.
When asked what complaint she treats patients for the most, Dr. Curtiss said she works a lot with people’s nervous systems.
“Because of today’s lifestyle people tend to burn the candle at both ends, causing stress on the sympathetic nervous system,” she said.
These systems mobilize the body’s fight or flight mechanism as they are constantly active keeping the body stable so a person’s organs function properly aiding in digestion and the ability to absorb nutrition as well as promoting a restful sleep.
PPC’s basic plan costs a one-time enrollment fee of $20 and a $30 per month membership fee. Basic membership includes access to PPC’s provider network, Aetna’s dental and vision network. It also provides a discount drug prescription card and 24 hour customer service.
In addition to the basic services offered by and through the co-op for an average of $39 a month, the second plan also offers copay-free visits to primary care physicians.
The idea is to offer direct access to medical care and wellness education programs, so members can experience a healthier life.
Early diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses means fewer emergency room visits and hospital stays. Tony McCormick, the PPC’s Director of Information, notes that many Portlanders want alternative care options and PPC offers an integrative network.
To find out more go to: www.patientphysiciancoop.com, call 971.313.8354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.