Local clinic charges just $50 per visit

SPRING, TexasIt's a busy Monday morning and Chantel McCormick is bringing her teenage daughter Jordan to a very unique Medical Clinic with a very unusual business model.

The fact is, McCormick has been bringing her teenage son and daughter to the Express Family Clinic in Spring, Texas, for three years now, because at this particular medical clinic it's just $50 for medical care. That's right, $50 flat for each patient.

When McCormick first heard the cost she was being asked to pay she could not believe it.

"I said, 'What? That's it? Fifty bucks. But what about the extra this and the extra that, the extras?' They said, 'No extras, just $50. And I said, 'Wow, we have a new place to go," McCormick said.

The Express Family Clinic is the brainchild of Nurse Practitioner Melissa Herpel, who opened the clinic in 2011, with one simple idea in mind -- charge one, low, flat rate of $50 for people who need medical treatment for their kids and for themselves right now.

"Yes, the average person walking in here is going to pay $50 for their visit, that's it, $50 flat," Herpel said.

She started the clinic after working in an emergency room and being constantly angered by the huge prices people were being charged for simple procedures.

Herpel couldn't afford the expense of huge health insurance rates herself, so she decided to make health care cheaper for people who don't have insurance, and for those who don't want to pay gigantic deductibles.

How does she do it? By cutting out the middle man, as she puts it, and by cutting out the health insurance companies altogether.

"I don't take insurance because insurance companies dictate how much you have to charge your patients. By charging everybody a flat rate, I can really take care of more people and get them in and out much faster," Herpel said.

There are some instances where you'll likely pay a little more than $50 though.

For example, you'll pay an extra $35 if you bring your child in with a broken arm. If you need stitches or staples to close a wound, you'll pay an additional $25. If you have to have an incision to drain a boil or infection, you'll pay an additional $35. And if you have to get a strep test, for you or for your child, you'll pay an extra $15.

"That means I can do just about everything a doctor can do, except surgery and delivering a baby," Herpel said of being a nurse practitioner. "But for just about everything else the average person would come in for, I'm good."

Herpel's Express Family Clinic has two locations -- one in Spring and the other in Montgomery.

During her first month open, she saw just 90 patients, but now her clinics see about 1,500 people, many of them folks with no insurance at all.

As puts it, "The draw for people is (Herpel) is fantastic at what she does and it saves us a lot of money."

Herpel said she hopes to open more clinics in the future.

"This is the model for how health care should be done," said Lisa Ann Crixell, a patient who brought her daughter to the clinic for stitches, "It just makes too much sense."

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Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.