This doctor doesn’t mess around with insurance.
She thinks it takes too much time and costs too much money. The deductibles are frighteningly high and many maladies aren't covered. So Dr. Wendy Schilling, an internist in Ashland for 15 years, has gone to a direct primary care system of monthly subscription that supplies her patients with much of the medical care they need.
Direct primary care means that for a fee less than $100 a month, you get access to a doctor when you want and can call or text or email her, including sending a pic of your “owie,” if it’s visible.
“I see them as a person, not their symptom,” Schilling says of her patients.
The big issue is insurance and cost. “I enjoy being a doctor who doesn’t love insurance companies or their restrictions,” says Schilling.
Instead, you can come to see her on short notice. You can email or text her with concerns, send pics of visible symptoms or just to talk things over.
She treats a range of ailments, including diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, rashes and irrigating ear wax. She does blood work on site. She does an extensive intake interview and counseling.
“DPC is making medicine simple, affordable and easy to access,” she says. “I can make direct contact with patients and can spend more time with them, getting to know their whole situation, not just one symptom.
“Insurers have a lot of rules and I don’t have to play by their rules.”
Her website, wendyschillingmd.com, boasts: no waiting in doctors’ offices, a doctor who listens and devotes more time to you, and no complex bill from insurers that you don’t understand. It says you get low-cost lab tests and medications on site, provided by an expert primary care doctor.
Does this mean you can dump all insurance? No, says Schilling. You'll need a policy that covers “big ticket items.”
Another DPC physician, Dr. Philipp Olshausen of Medford, agrees. He handles the basics, but refers patients to specialists for catastrophic events or ailments outside a general practitioner’s practice.
Schilling and Olshausen are among a growing number of doctors and clinics shifting to the subscription-based approach to health care. Medford-based Valley Immediate Care, which has five offices in three counties, began offering a subscription medical service in 2016.
Schilling and Olshausen both offer wholesale meds and lab work which, along with the affordable subscription rate, can, Olshausen notes, save between 50 and 90 percent on out-of-pocket expenses or high deductibles. He has up to 35 DPC patients, and 160 waiting, he says, when he goes to all-DPC on July 1.
His website, roguedpc.com, says, “Third-party fee-for-service payments are abandoned in order to eliminate unnecessary administrative costs that contribute nothing to patient care … . We abandon the rules and regulations imposed upon us by the government and insurance companies through their payment contracts.”
Both doctors stress they have no hidden fees, work with fewer patients and are available 24/7 in some form — digital or, if needed, in person. House calls happen.
Patient Bill Ashbey of Ashland, a Schilling patient, says he has Medicare and has kept supplemental insurance but likes the DPC cost — $85 a month, and the continuity of staying with a doctor who knows all his issues.
“Unlike most other countries,” Ashbey says, “insurance here is made so much more costly, with artificial expenses, phone people, claim processing people, people to deny claims, on and on.”
Susanne Cusick of Ashland, another Schilling patient, pays $85 a month per person. She calls the system “amazing” as she and her husband “have direct contact with her and can call her anytime."
“We are saving money because there’s no deductible with her," says Cusick, noting that they keep other insurance to cover major medical. "She’s the best doctor we’ve ever had, takes time to listen and ask questions, so she really knows us. She also does the preventative medicine. We’ve phoned, texted and emailed. She responds very quickly.”
In treating cancer and other major ailments, Schilling notes, “you better hope you have insurance, as it’s very expensive.”
"But I can be the go-between and help them navigate the system and they still pay me the same amount," she adds.
The shift to DPC has changed Schilling's sense of mission.
“Now I enjoy being a doctor," she says. "You have to enjoy your work. Would you fly with a pilot who didn’t enjoy his work?
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.