Aiming to remedy a lack of affordable health care options for creatives and service industry workers, a new East Austin clinic is offering them discounted membership plans. METSI Care, which opened in October at 1614 E. Sixth St., offers unlimited primary health care for musicians, artists, and bar/restaurant/venue workers at a $69/month rate.
A keyboard and an acoustic guitar sit directly inside the office's front door. Above them: a pair of paintings, made by local multidisciplinary artist Rebecca Fitzpatrick. One contains portraits of Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Prince, and the EDM artist Avicii looking healthy and vital. An accompanying canvas shows the same group as alarmingly gaunt, dead-eyed prescription drug addicts.
To Dr. Garrick Baskerville, a onetime music photographer who founded METSI Care and serves as its family medicine practitioner, the images represent phenomenal talents lost to addiction and, in many cases, to the woefully mismanaged medical care that's endemic to America's health care system.
"I've been working in medicine for long enough that I saw it change from a focus on people to a focus on profit and money," says the Penn State-educated physician, who relocated to Austin in 2016. That factors heavily into his new practice's format, the emergent direct primary care (DPC) model, which uses membership dues instead of billing insurance for services.
"DPC is the future of primary care, whether you have insurance or not, because it's personalized, transparent, and cheaper," Baskerville says, adding that he offers longer appointments than insurance-dependent practices and doesn't have to spend half the time on a computer clicking through boxes. "There's relation and trust – how medicine used to be when docs carried black bags."
METSI Care isn't designed to be a facility where patients have their gallbladders removed or get CT scans, but Baskerville says it offers practical services that'll contribute to the general health of creatives and service industry workers. For example: He can treat gonorrhea, give stitches, do pregnancy testing, heal abscesses, set broken fingers, give joint injections, give you a proctology exam, and administer flu shots. The clinic also offers OB-GYN services and physical therapy services.
While the practice's rate for creatives is currently just 13.5% cheaper than its normal METSI Direct Plan, the latter will likely increase in price as the business grows; Baskerville plans to keep the creative plan's price fixed. Austin's musical entertainers already enjoy the benefit of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, but that nonprofit only has the resources to serve musicmakers, not venue staff, and certainly not visual artists or bartenders. For them, the clinic presents a new health care option.
At last year's South by Southwest conference, Baskerville spoke on a panel about creativity and wellness. Going forward, he wants to strengthen the link between those two elements with group exercise opportunities for members, sessions that practice healing through art and music, and informational courses that teach musicians how to eat when they're on tour.
"For creatives, this model is not just about having access to a doctor," he says. "It's about understanding what it means to be healthy and that involves the mind, body, and spirit."
Learn more at www.metsicare.com.
Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.