The Houston Healthcare Initiative (HHI) is a member owned, non-profit medical co-op. Led by Houston based neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein, the HHI will replace traditional health insurance for qualified individuals and families and provide incentives for members to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. HHI will provide affordable medical coverage through a combination of negotiated rates, low monthly payments, personal accountability and lifestyle incentives. The medical co-op promises to save qualifying individuals and families money on health insurance. At the same time, HHI will help uphold quality care by asking members to bear some responsibility and individual accountability for maintaining their personal health.
How Did HHI Come About?
While the promise of the Affordable Care Act was to lower the cost of health insurance, most Americans experience the opposite with much higher rates. The founder of HHI, Dr. Steven Goldstein, wanted to find a way to help patients and others find affordable health insurance and landed on the idea of the medical cooperative. The ‘medical cooperative’ or co-op as it is commonly known is possible because plans like HHI are exempt from the Obamacare tax penalties assessed to those who do not have health insurance.
What Are Health Care Co-Ops?
Consumer based cooperative purchasing arrangements are not new. The basis of the success of co-ops is they use the ability to buy large amounts on good terms. Health care cooperatives are much like other co-ops. For example, consumer cooperatives are owned by the people who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative. But instead of electricity or milk, the medical co-op employs physicians, has access to negotiated hospital rates and prices and often own health care facilities.
How HHI Members Benefit
For a co-op to work as well as it might means that the cooperative health plan can obtain the lowest price charged to the most favored customer. For HHI, members benefit from Dr. Goldstein’s expertise and knowledge of how the hospital and pharmaceutical industries assess prices. At the same time, HHI members benefit from discounted rates with local health care providers. In the greater Houston area, health care providers, hospitals and others are able to push back their rates because HHI is in effect buying ‘in bulk’. It sounds odd and most people think of ‘Sams’ or ‘Costco’ when they think of bulk purchase, but there are discounts for large purchases of just about anything including healthcare.
The Health Care Commodity
Health care is not often thought of as a commodity, but in essence it is. It is definitely a business, but the normal laws of supply and demand do not always apply as the government regulations and insurance companies intercede and disqualify many free market concepts. It is only recently that health care has been thought of as a ‘right’ to which Americans are entitled. The public discussion and policies the government has implemented have not yielded better or more affordable medicine. Doctors are leaving their practices as large medical companies buy them out or because of the regulations imposed on them. Dr. Goldstein has found a way to take the existing laws and build an acceptable alternative to traditional health insurance in the form of a non-profit organization owned by the members.
Details about qualifying for membership in HHI along with prices for coverage are available from the HHI web site at http://houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.