Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Insurance innovation

A back-to-basics plan, Empower3, holds promise

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Cut out the big insurance companies, eliminate deductible­s and copays, and let the health care consumer know exactly what he’s getting for his dollar. That’s the idea behind Empower3 Center for Health, a Blair County business that provides unlimited primary care and related services for one price. Monthly plans start at $90 for individual­s and $270 for families, with actual amounts varying by the scope of services.

Plans are available to those who want to pay out of pocket, but two employers — Altoona Area School District and Redstone Highlands, a senior services provider in Westmorela­nd County — have signed on to provide coverage to their employees. As the Post-Gazette’s Kris B. Mamula reported Sunday, the downside is a limited provider network, while the advantages include a slew of services, from office visits and imaging tests to blood work and vaccinatio­ns, included in the monthly fee.

This approach to health care, known as direct family care, is growing in popularity. Little wonder why. Once the monthly fee is paid, there is no one trying to nickel-and-dime the consumer on copays and deductible­s. Gone is the mystery surroundin­g how much something costs and how much goes to each provider.

The plans cover only primary care; catastroph­ic coverage would have to be purchased elsewhere to keep consumers in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. However, much health care is based in the general practition­er’s office, and easier access to basic — and preventive — care can head off bigger problems down the road.

Beyond the convenienc­e provided by Empower3 is the feeling employers and consumers have of regaining a measure of control over a health care industry hijacked by insurance companies, pharmaceut­ical companies and government regulators, among other culprits. The company is aptly named.

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