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Addressing common direct primary care (DPC) myths

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Direct primary care (DPC) practices are growing in the US. The DPC model is based on patient membership fees for basic, primary care services, instead of insurance payments. For those who are concerned with the rising costs of healthcare, including the cost of insurance, the DPC option can be an affordable, workable alternative.

Many DPC physicians do encourage their patients to secure high-deductible insurance plans that cover catastrophic services, but for most patients a typical membership fee of $60-75 a month can cover all of their basic services. Even with the enticements of lower monthly payments and increased time and access to their DPC physician, however, many patients are still concerned with a number of myths surrounding the DPC practice.

John Bender, M.D., M.B.A., recently described a few of those myths in an article published by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP):

Myth: With panel sizes of 900 patients, there is no way we can possibly come up with enough family physicians to provide primary care for everyone.

Dr. Bender contends that the DPC model will actually encourage more new graduates to enter the primary care field and will draw current, burned out physicians back to “do what they became physicians for in the first place.”

Myth: DPC is capitated insurance.

DPC physicians set their membership fee based on what they need to sustain their practice while providing basic, quality primary care services for their patients. They do not provide – nor do they generally accept – insurance and they do not take on underwriting or actuarial risk.

Myth: DPC will exacerbate disparities in health care.

The concern in this myth is that DPC practices will only serve a specific population. In many states, regulatory restrictions are prohibiting certain groups from taking advantage of the DPC model. In fact, most DPC practices are willing and eager to provide services for underserved groups such as Medicaid recipients, as well as for employer groups.