Even as Altoona Regional Health System explores options for partnership at the macro level, a doctor affiliated with the hospital is expanding at the micro level.
On Thursday, Zane Gates, founder of Partnering for Health Services, a free clinic in Altoona, will hold the grand opening for a clinic in Marion Center, affiliated with Indiana Regional Medical Center, according to a news release.
It's the first time Gates and partner Patrick Reilly, a Buffalo-based insurance broker, have taken Gates' model outside Altoona, but it won't be the last, they hope.
"Our goal is to get it statewide and then nationally," said Reilly, co-founder of the new clinic, Empower 3 Center for Health. "We are currently speaking with several very interested hospitals locally and in Philadelphia."
The Gates model focuses on the working poor: those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy standard private insurance.
Subscribers buy full coverage insurance for $99 a month, with a requirement that they use the new clinic or the Indiana hospital.
The partner hospital benefits by reduction of uncompensated emergency room visits.
The clinic model calls for paid and volunteer staff and drugs obtained for free because they're approaching their expiration dates.
The program stresses preventive care and reduction of risk by changing individual behavior.
The formation of the new company, with Gates as majority shareholder and local investor help, represents a new strategy for Gates and Reilly.
"We have been running around for three years telling everyone this model works, but [have gotten] no government support just yet," Reilly said. "We decided to take our argument right to the community hospitals that are getting financially hammered in the emergency rooms by the growing uninsured."
There's room for the clinics despite changes wrought by Obamacare, whose goals include providing insurance for everyone, Reilly said.
"Lots of folks will still need serious help," he said.
The new private company formed by Gates and Reilly isn't affiliated with Altoona Regional.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.