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Wisconsin Doctor Lowering Health Care Costs

Written By: Travis Buhler  |  Posted: Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

There are a lot of arguments about how to lower the costs of health care and how to make it more accessible to all people. But while the Federal and State governments are arguing with each other on how to solve this, one doctor has found a way to cut prices by 50% to 60% or more-he doesn't accept health insurance. Dr. Troy Schrock is the owner of Country Health Clinic, a traditional, mainstream medical clinic that only accepts self-paying patients. It is located in Unity Wisconsin, north of Marshfield. Dr. Schrock's method of cutting costs involves more than just a smaller staff and a smaller facility. It involves a different attitude towards medical care from his patients-one that understands the healthy balance between the cost of care and the reduction of medical risk. Says Dr. Schrock, "If you say 'I want to get this medical risk as low as possible', you end up driving the costs way up and you get to a point where you get diminishing returns. You can pay more and more money and you lower your risk only a small amount and you get to a point where you can pay all the money you want and there is still going to be medical things that are wrong that we don't have a fix for."
"My patients tend to say 'I'm willing to take a little risk here to keep the costs down'. They will skip a lot of what they would view as unnecessary medical offerings." This keeps the costs of Dr. Schrock's services at 40% - 50% of the usual cost for medical care. But for major medical care, the cost can still be high. How do his patients handle expensive health crises? Most of his patients belong to churches that help each other out financially when it comes to major medical costs. Dr. Schrock says, "They know that if there is a bill that they can't handle, the church will help them out. There is the loose understanding that they will get help if they have a bill they can't pay." Is there something here that the rest of America can learn about the medical industry? Why is the price of health care continuing to go up while this doctor charges considerably less? Perhaps it's because of the incredibly large clinics we continually go to (and which always seem to be building new additions every couple of years). Perhaps it's because we want an extra large staff to attend to us when we visit. Or perhaps we want "instant" healing and relief. Imagine how much cheaper medical costs would be if there were small clinics with small staffs that provided enough adequate medical care to treat our ailments. Another reason our prices may be too high is because we overvalue the elimination of any potential medical risk. Says Dr. Schrock, "The mainstream American's expectations in medicine are fairly high on the cost in order to try to get the risk as low as possible, and they are actually driving it into an area where I would consider it somewhat diminishing returns."
Has a loss of community driven up prices as well? There was a time in America where one didn't have to purchase major medical insurance or apply for Medicare or Medicaid in order to pay for a medical bill that was too high. We had family, we had churches, and we had neighbors. And when we received financial help from the community, we were extremely grateful (or we ought to have been). Today, a lot of American's suffer from 'entitlement' thinking. It is an attitude that leads one to believe that everyone has a 'right' to affordable health care. It is an attitude that makes one angry at the lack of financial help, rather than grateful for what we have freely received. And I believe it is an attitude that has taken away any incentive for the medical industry to keep prices down. Here is some evidence for this. Because of Dr. Schrock's non-traditional business model, he has not been able to treat patients on Medicare or Medicaid, "They don't allow me to charge my own fee for their own patients. If [a Medicare patient] wants to pay me out of their own pocket, that is illegal for me to do. If Medicare finds out, they can fine me big money or put me in jail. I have to tell Medicare patients that I can't see them. I can see any one I want to, except for
Medicare and Medicaid patients." I'm sure there are grateful recipients of Medicare, but the government doesn't allow them to seek out lower prices. In spite of this, Country Health Clinic is doing well. Still, Dr. Schrock is skeptical about the future, especially because of the recently passed federal health care bill. "If we go to a [mandatory health insurance policy] you can say that that will put me out of business (since most of his patients are un-insured self-paying customers), but there is an exception in that law for people who have religious opposition for insurance. I am anticipating that a lot of my patients will take advantage of that exemption and remain uninsured. We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out. There is a bit of uncertainty there as time goes on." Country Health Clinic is located at the intersection of Highway 13 and Second Street in Unity Wisconsin. The number is 715-223-8223.

Travis Buhler paints houses and is a regular contributor to the Eau Claire Journal. He and his wife Jennifer have six children and live in Augusta.

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