Krista Porter was faced with a tough decision when she quit her job to give birth to her third child - pay $1,100 a month to continue insuring her family's health through her employer-provided coverage, or roll the dice and hope for the best.
"We thought about it and decided, 'You know what, it's not in our budget. There's just no way,'" she said.
"It was stressful but, knock on wood, we were blessed," she added. "We did not have any situations that were major."
Porter and her husband - a self-employed marketing consultant - found a Gilbert-based company offering an alternative to costly health insurance premiums, deductible and co-pays.
The No Insurance Club offers 12 free office visits a year for individuals and 16 for families, as well as free tests, discounted medication and other perks for an annual membership fees of $480 for individuals and $680 for families. The program doesn't cover things like catastrophic illness or hospital visits.
The company was founded by Chad Harris and Sam Sannoufi, a Gilbert doctor.
Since opening for business in January, the company has enrolled about 500 members and six doctors, Harris said.
He's hopeful those numbers will jump to 25 doctors in Arizona and about a dozen in California by February. The company expects to begin offering memberships soon in Tampa, Fla., and Las Vegas.
"In 36 months, we'll have 2,000 doctors enrolled, which will have a minimum of 100 patients each," Harris predicted.
Trevor Whitmore, a physician's assistant at Higley Family Medicine in Gilbert, which participates in the program, estimated as many as 25 percent of his office's patients, or 100 people, lack health insurance.
"(No Insurance Club) is for the everyday run of the mill doctors visits that you need when you're sick," he said.
Whitmore said he would advise anyone who can afford insurance to obtain it. But many people, like Porter, forgo coverage simply because they left their job and can't afford to take on the premiums once covered by their employer, he said.
Those patients have no other choice than to pay for visits, tests and medications with cash.
"We tell them you pay cash for two or three visits and your already up to the same amount of money you would have paid for the whole year (as a member of No Insurance Club). So, it's much, much, much more affordable in that sense," he said.
Harris said participating doctors are drawn to the program because they don't have to wait to be paid by an insurance company and they can pocket more money per patient visit than they do with insured patients.
He said the typical office visit costs about $75, but after overhead costs, doctors only get about $40.
"Anything outside of the package, you've got to get insurance for," he said. "I think the market will start splitting and people will get catastrophic insurance and then they'll buy prepaid preventative packages."