Healthcare costs, including insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, are of concern to most patients in the US. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that US healthcare spending grew 3.9 percent in 2017, reaching $3.5 trillion or $10,739 per person. Healthcare spending accounted for 17.9 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2017. One option for the cost-conscious patient is the direct primary care (DPC) model, which will save the patient money while providing high quality primary care services.
Direct primary care practices operate on membership fees. Patients pay a monthly fee, typically in the $50-$100 range, that covers all of their basic primary care services. Many DPCs also include laboratory and x-ray services in the basic monthly fee and offer reduced prices on prescription drugs and other healthcare services. DPCs do not accept insurance but generally encourage patients to maintain high deductible, catastrophic insurance.
The cost savings for patients in DPCs have been detailed by Consumer Reports in a recent article discussing smart money strategies for 2019. The article states that DPCs “can be cost-effective and convenient for people with chronic health problems that need close monitoring, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.”
DPC physicians also make themselves available outside the office visit, responding to communication or even making house calls when necessary. These extra services contribute to the added value of a DPC practice. In particular, “for people who make frequent appointments with their primary care doctor, joining a DPC could cost less than using the coverage provided by a traditional insurance plan.”
DPCs are growing in popularity with cost-conscious and health-conscious patients. Consumer Reports cites industry estimates that indicate there are “more than 900 DPC practices across 48 states and Washington, D.C. … up from 273 locations in 39 states in 2015.” Approximately 500,000 patients are currently enjoying cost savings and receiving quality care as part of DPC practices.