They thought it was encouraging that a Christian-based healthcare practice would operate without co-pays and deductibles, but instead, a monthly fee akin to paying a gym membership.
But, they added, could it really be done?
"People told us you couldn't do this," Blocher said in a recent interview at CHC, 3322 Beltline Ct. NE, in Grand Rapids. '"You guys are nuts. There's no way that you're going to do this.'"
Now they know better, said Blocher. CHC opened for patients in July 2017.
To understand what makes CHC unlike other primary care centers – both Christian and otherwise – stems in part from Blocher's concerns about the history and current condition of the U.S. healthcare system he says is both secular and pagan. This trend reaches back to when former President Bill Clinton charged his wife, Hillary, to launch in 1993 a Task Force on National Health Care Reform, referred to pejoratively as "Hillarycare."
Two other red flags, according to Blocher, are abortion on demand and the so-called death with dignity movement that caused healthcare to lose its moral compass.
"It just struck me that the direction of our culture, the direction of our politics, and what was happening to medicine, was becoming increasingly secularized and frankly paganized," said Blocher.
"The day was going to come when it would be harder for Christians to go into medicine, and it would become hard for them to stay in medicine. The secular influences that actually command the groupthink within medicine would catch up to Christians and Christians would be pushed out of healthcare or muzzled because they wouldn't toe the line on abortion. And at that point, the whole LGBTQ issue was really just starting to percolate. And here we are now, looking at a whole different situation."
It's these trends that ignited in Blocher a desire to craft a member-fee based affordable healthcare.
What makes Christian Healthcare Centers different
HCH does not participate with any health insurance plan or government agency. The result, said Blocher, is CHC's Christian physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, chiropractors, nutrition and fitness coaching, counseling and pastoral care counselor can focus solely on patients' care minus the need to answer to insurance companies or government mandates.
"Doctors want to spend time with their patients but the way healthcare is set up for the reimbursement system, the third party payer system, is they've got to see 20 to 25 patients a day so the average visit is 8 to 10 minutes," said Blocher. "That's not much healthcare. What happens (instead) is doctors become disease managers. We've streamlined the patient experience so when they walk in the door, somebody greets them by name and says, 'Hi Sue,' or 'Hi Bill,' to create an environment that's more like a family than it is going to some sterile clinic where you're just one of the cattle waiting out in the waiting room."
Healthcare and the first century church
A key element to CHC's mission is it wants to serve as a driving force that restores the church back to the medical ministry it was starting in the first century.
"When you go back to see what really transformed Roman society and turned persecutors into followers of Christ, it was the healthcare ministries of the church," said Blocher, "it was the preaching of the gospel in conjunction with caring for the sick and caring for the poor. The Roman government tried to fight it. Christians were being incredibly persecuted and were impoverished yet they were the ones who were going out and picking the people off of the streets and taking care of them."
How CHC works and what it provides
CHC currently has 1,560 members and that number grows continually. An initial one-time membership of $50 is charged for an individual and $75 for a family. Those with pre-existing conditions may also enroll. Patients do not need to be professing Christians.
"We don't do anything with insurance whether it's private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid," said Blocher. "We run it like a gym membership. You pay a monthly fee and get all of our services."
A breakdown of the monthly membership fee is as follows: newborns to 24 months $25 a month; two years old to 18 years of age $10 a month; college students, $30, adults are $80 and seniors (65 and up) $70.
The monthly fee covers primary care services including, but is not limited to, acute care, urgent care, management of chronic diseases, in-house counseling and spiritual care, annual wellness assessment, physical exams, routine laboratory tests and sundry medications.
A more complete list of services can be found here.
Because of CHC's model, patients may still want to consider enrolling in a major medical policy.
"We tell our members that CHC is not a substitute for major medical coverage, either through traditional insurance or with a medical expense sharing ministry like Samaritan Ministries," said Blocher.
More CHCs on the way
Currently there is only one CHC location, but the reason Christian Healthcare Centers is plural is because Blocher and CHC's two other co-founders which to add primary care centers not only in Michigan but other states as well.
Besides primary care centers, Blocher also foresees launching Christian surgery centers, outpatient surgery centers, birthing centers, and providing ancillary services such as, MRIs, CT scans.
"Our vision is to create a distinctively Christian healthcare system," said Blocher. "We've probably have 13 to 14 cities that have contacted us about starting centers. We just have to grow a little more and become a little more sustainable before we stretch out too far.
Blocher said he's serious about restoring stewardship in healthcare.
"There's no reason in the world why healthcare needs to cost $3.1 trillion here in the United States," he said.
Blocher comes well-equipped for the challenge.
He is a bioethicist and the author of two books, "The Right to Die? Caring Alternatives to Euthanasia" and "Vital Signs: Decisions That Determine The Quality of Life and Health."
He founded several Christian nonprofit organizations, including an inner city medical clinic and pregnancy care centers in several states, and served as associate professor of interdisciplinary studies in the professional and graduate studies division of Cornerstone University for 15 years; was a captain in the Michigan State Police Chaplains Corps from 2001-2016; and served on the pastoral teams of three churches.
And he debated late pathologist and euthanasia proponent Jack Kevorkian.
"And I went to medical ethics conferences all over the country and I just saw the direction that things were headed," said Blocher.
Blocher said he and others want to re-set healthcare's priorities.
"One of the things I think that contributes to the transformation of medicine from compassion and caring to business is one of the pagan aspects of it," he said. "It has turned the caring of the sick into enterprise. And so there's the chasing of payment rather than the caring of patients. I don't blame doctors and other medical professionals for that. They still provide extraordinarily good care across the board despite the motives of people who are not medical professionals.
"I plan on defunding Planned Parenthood the old fashion way: capitalism and competition," Blocher added. "I'm going to take their business away from them. Provide superior care. Every single time I have seen a woman who has seen an ultrasound for the first time, they never say, 'You mean that's my fetus?' Science is on our side."