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New healthcare option comes to Jackson

How much do you pay a month for health insurance premiums? Somewhere between $300 and $500? And how much do you pay out of pocket when you see your doctor for those few precious moments you spend together? $20-100?

What if you could pay just $79 a month and have unlimited access to a primary care physician? What if you could pay under $4 for a lab test that might cost you nearly $250 somewhere else? What if instead of paying $300-$400 for your medicine, you could get it for $9?

It can happen if you become a member of a new healthcare option that has just opened its doors in Jackson—EBO MD.

EBO stands for “Essential Benefit Offerings,” explained Tony Thompson, who owns EBO MD with his partner, Josh Stephens. It was decided to shorten the name to EBO MD because “Essential Benefit Offerings sounds like an insurance company,” he said.

EBO MD is not insurance, and it does not accept insurance. It offers unlimited primary care for a low monthly fee of $79 per adult and $10 per child (with at least one parent membership). There is no co-pay, no deductible and no billing of insurance companies.

Serving as the primary physician in the Jackson facility is Dr. Ramiro Icaza, who recently retired from his position with Saint Francis Medical Center. He returns to the exact same building where he started practicing medicine in Jackson. “I started 32 years ago in this very office,” Icaza said. “The office had a face-lift. I have not.”

EBO MD has an office at 37 Doctors’ Park in Cape Girardeau staffed by Lisa Baker, a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner. Thompson decided to open an office in Jackson because, he said, “It’s my home.  What better place than your own backyard?”

Thompson has worked in healthcare most of his life. Way back in 1982 he worked at Jones Drug Store.

More recently he worked for corporate pharmaceuticals, and he began to see that some of the high cost of healthcare was because “healthcare companies take more than their fair share. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors that goes on in the insurance industry. There are different contract prices with everybody.”

One can’t get a simple answer as to the price of a medical procedure because health care providers offer different discounts to different insurance companies.

A simple CBC lab test to check blood for viruses, etc., retails for $40, according to the EBO Web site. Yet,     Thompson is aware of it costing as much as $247 locally. But at EBO MD, the cost is just $3.90.

One EBO MD patient was paying $200 a month for his medicine. At EBO MD, he pays just $81 for a three-month supply, Thompson said. The money saved on lab tests and prescriptions can make up for the cost of EBO MD membership. “It makes primary care available at no charge,”  Thompson said.

EBO MD does not replace all health insurance. There are still emergencies and procedures that cannot be done at a doctor’s office.

“You still need catastrophic insurance,” Thompson recommended. “Catastrophic insurance is very reasonable [in price],” added Icaza.

Another advantage of EBO MD is accessibility. It will be possible for patients to make an appointment and see the doctor the same day.

Because membership is limited, the doctor can spend more time with each patient. “We see 15-16 a day, not 50,” said Thompson. Instead of spending half a day in a waiting room to see a busy doctor, the wait at EBO MD will be only four to five minutes, he predicted.

Visits are not limited to just a few minutes; they may last up to half an hour. This gives time for better communication between doctor and patient.

“It’s an opportunity for doctors to be doctors and provide good care,” Thompson said. “We want to put common sense back into healthcare.”

At most places, doctors must see 40-50 patients a day. “You make a diagnosis and treat it and out you go,” Icaza remembered. If patients had more than one malady, they had to set up another appointment because the doctor was out of time this visit. There wasn’t time to discuss prevention of diseases. And when doctors weren’t seeing patients, they were involved with their computers doing mountains of paperwork, Icaza said.

This is not the case at EBO MD.

“We’re going to focus on prevention. We’re going to focus on patients’ needs,” Icaza said.  This includes offering home visits (for an additional fee). When was the last time your doctor made a house call?

EBO MD also offers 24/7 access to medical help via its telehealth program. If you’re out of town and you develop a rash, you can take a picture of it and e-mail or text it to your doctor by phone or computer, so he can diagnose it.

“You may contact a physician any day at any hour by telephone, e-mail, messaging, Skype and FaceTime,” states the EBO MD Web site.

“The AMA [American Medical Association] says 73 percent of medical conditions can be handled by Tele-health,” Thompson said.

The idea for EBO MD came to Thompson 10-12 years ago when he was negotiating pharmaceutical contracts. He heard the same complaints from patients and companies: insurance was getting in the way of good care.

Five years ago, Thompson opened his own medical lab in Cape Girardeau and locked insurance out. He offered occupational testing and drug testing. He approached other independent providers such as sleep labs and imaging offices. He joined forces with them, offering discounts, but not accepting insurance.

Then, about a year ago, he bought the practice from a retiring doctor and started EBO MD in Cape.

The Jackson office will be staffed by Dr. Icaza, an office manager, a medical assistant, and eventually another doctor or nurse practitioner.

They will offer all the services of other doctor’s offices, including minor surgeries such as skin lesions and wart removals. Some medicines are dispensed in the office at a huge discount from retail prices. Narcotics, however, are neither kept nor dispensed there—patients have to go to a pharmacy for them.

When patients need care beyond the scope of the EBO MD office, they may receive discounts from some specialists. And although they don’t sell insurance at EBO MD, they are working with several area brokers and national cost-sharing models so members can keep their insurance costs low. “We can get premiums down to under $200 a month with a $500 deductible,” Thompson said.

Thompson wants to expand EBO MD to other areas. There are plans for a third and possibly a fourth EBO MD office in the region. In addition, people are copying  EBO MD in other states. “People are licensing our model in Texas, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Colorado, Wyoming and Iowa,” he said. Some of these will carry the EBO MD name, others will have their own name under the licensing agreement.

Instead of having health-care managed by hospitals and insurance companies, EBO MD is bringing health-care management back to patients and their doctors. “We’re going to manage the care ourselves,” said Icaza. “This is going to be good for our patients. It takes a team effort. Even the patient is part of the team.”

Thompson borrowed his motto from a former employer, Johnson & Johnson: “Patient first, employee second, bottom line third.” He added, “If you take care of the first two, the bottom line [profit] will be there.”

EBO MD is located at 430 W. Independence St. (Hwy. D) in Jackson and 37 Doctors’ Park, Suite 1, in Cape. For more information, visit or call 803-2941 or Dr. Icaza at 339-8100.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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