Tigard resident Tony McCormick sees a need for better health care in Portland. And he has a plan.

McCormick, a medical software writer by day, has founded Patient/Physician Cooperative - Portland, a health care co-op that brings physicians and patients together in a way that makes it easier for everyone involved, McCormick said.

'We have successful health care co-ops in Houston and North Carolina, but here in Portland we have a much better understanding of co-ops and I thought, 'Well, this is silly. We should start one here, too.'

The group is hosting its first meeting in Tigard next week.

'It's about community,' he said. 'At our meetings, we have doctors and members all having coffee together and talking about health care. That doesn't happen. You don't ever go have coffee with your doctor. I love the community aspect of it; it's about people coming together.'

The co-op is simple, McCormick said. Members join in order to receive insurance-free health care from physicians across the Portland area.

As the co-op grows and more and more patients and physicians join, the group will be able to add more services at discount rates.

'This is about you forming a relationship with a primary physician that you choose,' McCormick said.

Members join the co-op and pay doctors directly for primary healthcare at a set cost per month. The healthcare co-op was started to provide primary health care to people who otherwise couldn't afford it.

'Amazingly enough, that's just about everybody,' McCormick said. 'In an HMO, you have to pick a primary care provider and they control everything,' he said. 'We're not bound by insurance rules, so if you want to see a chiropractor and naturopath, that's up to you. It puts the patient in control of their own healthcare.'

McCormick helped found health care co-ops in Houston and North Carolina, and said that the Portland area is perfectly suited for a cooperative model of health care.

'Portland is much more comfortable with alternative care,' he said. 'Oregon recognizes different paths. Most states don't recognize chiropractors and naturopaths as primary care physicians.'

That opportunity has lead several naturopaths and other alternative care physicians to join the co-op, McCormick said, allowing them to start the cooperative while they seek out other local medical doctors to join.

'We didn't see the point in waiting for M.D.s to start this process,' McCormick said.

Patient/Physician Cooperative is still in its early stages, McCormick said. It was only about six months ago that McCormick first started meeting with physicians and holding meetings.

So far, the co-op has about a dozen physicians from across the Portland area, and about 40 members.

'We're just starting this thing,' said McCormick. 'It's a bit of the chicken-and-the-egg situation. Physicians join when there's patients and patients join when we have physicians.'

The co-op has held several meetings in Portland, but Wednesday, Sept. 14, McCormick is hosting the co-op's first meeting in Tigard.

'Our meetings are more of a community meeting,' he said. 'We have people talk about what they care about, and how they want to help us build this together. If people want to sign up for the co-op they can, but that's not what it's about. As we grow, the meetings will become more about education.'

Wednesday's meeting is set for 7 p.m., at The Gathering Place, 12950 S.W. Pacific Highway, in Tigard.

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