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April, 2010

Patient Membership Groups: Lifetime Care Made Easy

By Nick Caras, DC

You know this situation: after the Report of Findings, patients are confused about how many times they are suppose to come in, how and when they are going to pay and if their insurance is going to contribute. They end up so bewildered about the whole process, it is hard for them to accept care in the first place.

This is an untenable situation. To address it, I went to many seminars and heard a great deal about practice management as I searched for ways to keep patients in my office for a lifetime of chiropractic care. I researched numerous payment plans, treatment programs, corrective care plans, family plans, and wellness life plans. In the end, I found that most were so complicated, I couldn't even begin to know how to present them to the patient.

As a strong proponent of lifetime wellness care, I also wanted to find a way to make chiropractic affordable for more people. None of the programs I researched satisfied my twin goals of affordability and lifetime wellness.

So I developed an innovative chiropractic membership program that works very similarly to a gym membership. Patients know that on the first of the month their credit card gets charged, and they get to visit their chiropractor once a week week for as long as they wish.

How Chiropractic Membership Works

The plan works very much like a monthly gym membership. The way the program works in our office is very simple:

  • We always suggest chiropractic care once a week for wellness lifetime care.
  • Once they sign up for the membership program, they pick a standing weekly time slot for their chiropractic visit.
  • We keep their credit card information on file and charge it our membership fee on the first of the month.

We stand up to our obligations and promises in regard to weekly chiropractic care, and the patient stands up to their financial obligation with an automatic credit-card withdrawal on the first of the month. This makes it convenient, easy and affordable, and provides ongoing care, month after month and year after year.

There is complete communication and understanding on what the patient will receive and what their financial responsibility is. With a membership plan, the patient will never be billed extra because their insurance company didn't contribute as it promised it would. The patient will never be billed extra on certain visits because we performed an extra modality or a re-examination on one specific visit. Everything is already included in their monthly membership. The membership plan I use is $120 per month for four visits.

As doctors and owners of the clinic, we no longer have to worry about chasing insurance money which means less staff, less frustration, and less time. We also do not have to worry about patients dropping out because wellness care is too expensive or too confusing. Again, just like a gym membership, the patient has access to a lifetime of chiropractic care in exchange for a monthly membership fee. It really is that simple.

How To Set Up a Chiropractic Membership Plan

First off, before you begin, you need to check with your state association regarding dual fee schedules. It is generally considered illegal to have dual fee schedules for insurance patients as opposed to membership patients (I have a mix in my practice). In other words, if you charge $30 cash for an adjustment, you cannot charge $40 for that same adjustment to an insurance patient. The way to get around this with a chiropractic membership program is to work through a medical discount plan.

This is not an insurance plan, but rather a clearinghouse for providers who are willing to provide services at a discounted fee. In other words, rather than the insurance company deciding what its discount rate will be, you decide the amount of that rate. The membership fee then goes through the medical discount plan.

Once you have established that, you can then move on to setting up your membership rates. Keep in mind that the key is to make it affordable, particularly for your patients without insurance or whose insurance may not have good coverage for chiropractic care.

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