Michael Menchaca was less than a year into running and owning his own night clinic and navigating the maze of health insurance requirements and documentation when a thought came to him on his daily commute home from Harlingen to Weslaco.
“I thought, ‘there has to be a better way,’” he recalled. “Why can’t healthcare be like gym membership?”
Menchaca describes it as an “overnight” change. The young nurse practitioner went to a direct primary care model for his F Street clinic in Harlingen. Patients of the Menchaca Family Clinic would no longer face the question if they had insurance. The new payment model would be monthly memberships ranging from $40 to $60 with no co-pays. There would be no limits on visits and also no extra cost for procedures and treatments done in house.
Menchaca described the all-membership/no-insurance model as being clean, efficient and simple. It also improves the quality of his working relationships with patients.
“The insurance companies drive a wedge between patients and the clinician,” the 29-year-old nurse practitioner said. “I’m now able to actually sit down and talk to my patients and give them more direct access between visits through texting, e-mails, phone calls or live (virtual conversations via internet).”
The direct primary care model also leads to less hectic clinics, shorter wait times, and moving away from just treating conditions and prescribing medications, Menchaca said. Furthermore, he is now better able to get to the root causes of a situation and recommend changes that will make a longer-lasting impact on improving a patient’s health. Controlling and improving blood sugars, high blood pressure, diet and nutrition are just three of the issues Menchaca commonly deals with in caring for his patients.
In amplifying his point of better connectivity and improving access, Menchaca recounted how a patient recently texted him from a grocery store. He asked for recommendations on items he should purchase to improve his diet and health. For Menchaca, a Weslaco native, the passion for medical care resulted in a nursing degree from then-University of Texas-Pan American before embarking on an intensive 26-month dual post-graduate program at Georgetown University. Here, he earned a master’s of science in nursing and also completed the family nurse practitioner program.
Nurse practitioners can prescribe medications, examine patients, diagnose illnesses and provide treatment, much as physicians do. They can also have their own medical care facility. In Menchaca’s case, his is in what was once his father’s used car business. For Menchaca, that location underscores what his plans were in putting his medical education and training to its best use.
“The (Rio Grande) Valley is near and dear for me,” he said. “I never considered going to San Antonio or Houston or anywhere else. I was always going to be here.”
Menchaca’s clinic is now on firm ground. He’s also relishing the difference he’s making in the lives of his patients.
“I see myself as being the quarterback of their health care,” he said.