They offer a unique and trend-setting plan to make healthcare easier and less expensive

Canby is one of 26 cities using a new method of healthcare.

The Canby Clinic is a naturopathic health clinic whose patients pay a monthly fee for services. They can visit their doctor as often as they want during the month and pay nothing except the monthly fee. The monthly fee is based on a family's ages.

The staff includes three doctors and a registered nurse that all can perform primary care services. On staff are naturopathic doctors Erin Walker and Gabriel Holski.

Dr. Harry Waters sees a patient at the Canby Clinic.

The third doctor is Harris Waters, a former medical doctor who was an orthopedic surgeon in Silverton but went back to school to become a naturopathic doctor.

"Harris Waters wasn't seeing his patients thrive and went back to school to study alternative medicine and anti-aging nutrition issues," said Kris Rocha, back office coordinator who is the clinic's networking, scheduling and ordering employee. She was a patient before becoming a staff member. Celesta Graves is a registered nurse who does blood draws and helps out the doctors.

Up until a year ago Canby Clinic worked with patients' insurance, said Brant Walker, business manager. But they found that using insurance, especially Medicare and Medicaid, was eating into profits.

They were making 15 percent less than they had in 2010 when the clinic opened. So they turned the business around by making it a membership-based facility. "We no longer take insurance," Walker said.

"Because we're a small clinic, we didn't have negotiating power with insurance partnerships and when Oregon Health Coop failed we decided to get out," said Walker. "At the time we had thousands of patients, now we have about 550, nearly 200 per doctor. We plan to cap patients at a total of 1400."

Patients don't have to worry about deductibles, co-pays or co-insurance. They can have insurance, but typically it's catastrophic and not brought into play unless an illness is serious, like surgery or cancer and requires hospitalization or tending to broken limbs.

There's an enrollment fee of $75. Once that's been paid individuals pay $25 for patients age 0 to 19; $50 for ages 20-30; $75 for people 31-44 and $100 for those 45 and over.

All doctor visits, IVs and injections, and blood draws and treatments are included in the monthly fee and patients get a 20 percent discount for supplements, tinctures and herbs.

Other services include minor surgery, laceration cleaning, sutures, earwax removal, gynecology services, in-grown toenails, warts, simple cysts, skin tags and mole removal are not charged. Neither is back, neck and/or spine adjustments.

Pregnant patients are taken care of, but to make sure all is right with the baby, mothers-to-be should see an obstetrician, said Rocha. "We take care of the moms, but specialists are important for the baby's health."

Stefanie and Aaron Tewalt joined the clinic because they are self-employed and insurance to cover their family of five was way too expensive. Their membership runs $225 a month, substantially less than regular insurance costs for a family their size. They also have catastrophic insurance.

"This is much cheaper than insurance," Stefanie Tewalt said. "Insurance would cost at least $350 for my two oldest children. Canby Clinic also treats the whole person, naturally, and does blood work, vitamin deficiencies and gives some vaccines. The best part is that we can go as often as we need to. That's important when you have children.

"We're saving at least $500 per month. For a family of five, insurance costs from $1200 to $1500 per month," she said.

Vaccines are limited. Erin Walker said they will give tetanus and pertussis vaccines, but don't stock others, such as flu shots, because children and adults can get them at pharmacies. Apparently there isn't a huge call for them and they have a shelf life. "We believe in them within reason," she said.

Naturopaths believe that bodies are designed to heal themselves, says Erin Walker. When working with a patient she looks for what is causing the problem, such as stress, diet, sleeping habits or even a relationship. "We usually use herbs, or work with patients to change their diet. We look for the cause and look for and help the patient's body's ability to heal itself."

But they don't discount other methods either. When a person is proven ill and they need antibiotics, for example, they get them. If someone falls and is bleeding they give them stitches.

People commit to a six-month minimum membership, said Walker. That starts with a 15-minute free consult to meet the doctor and talk. That's followed up by a detailed history, a physical exam and follow up. "We invest in our patients up front. As physicians we have changed our quality of care and we are much less rushed. We've improved by moving over to no insurance," Erin Walker said.

The clinic also is making social commitments to Canby. For example, they have joined the Chamber of Commerce and are sponsoring a hole at two golf tournaments. First, at the Wayne O golf tourney to earn money for children's recreation and at the Chamber's tournament in the fall for low income families.

The Canby Clinic is located at 452 NW 1st Ave., phone 503-266-7443.

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