Imagine being able to rake leaves or mowing lawns in exchange for a doctor’s visit. Well in Falmouth, Maine, there are thirty-three patients who do just that. An article published by NPR examines the structure behind True North’s system of “time dollars” and how patients can qualify for the program. True North is a non-profit medical clinic in Falmouth that allows low-income patients complete specific services in exchange to see a doctor.
Tom Dahlborg, the executive director of True North, states this program was invented because he thought people “were not getting enough from their health care.” He feels people were not actively engaged in their health care decisions and this new program grants patients to spend up to an hour or more with their physicians, allowing for more time and discussion of what the patient feels. Unfortunately this program does have downfalls such as patients with no medical insurance would have to pay out of pocket at any other hospital for emergency services, specialist visits, etc. Also, if a patient’s income were to increase above a certain amount, he/she would no longer be able to partake in the program.
However, True North is aware of these limitations and express that they receive positive feedback from the patients who use the program. All in all, with such economic hardship for most people in the country, I feel it’s great that True North is at least addressing the issue of how expensive health insurance is and trying to find a solution for low-income patients. Hopefully we’ll see more of these programs to emerge across the nation!
Photo: Courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti