Health insurance can be complicated and costly. There are usually multiple levels of plans from which to choose, varying in cost depending on the services covered, the percentages of costs covered for each service, and the co-pays and deductibles. All of these costs add up for the typical consumer. A patient may pay a monthly premium, a co-pay for each visit, and a deductible for the year, for each individual in the family. Direct primary care (DPCs) practices operated by independent physicians are drastically changing that structure.
DPCs can help patients save on their healthcare costs, primarily because of their simplicity. A DPC operates on a set monthly membership fee, usually between $50 and $100 per individual, that covers all basic services for the patient. There are no office visit co-pays for preventive services, such as well-checks. In addition, the DPC independent physician usually negotiates significantly lower costs for medications and lab tests, which also saves the patient a considerable amount.
An independent physician in a DPC typically does not accept insurance, so has reduced overhead costs. There is no need to process paperwork or wait for reimbursements. However, most DPC physicians do recommend that patients carry high-deductible insurance for major medical issues that require specialized treatment or hospitalizations. For healthy individuals who typically visit their physician for routine exams, however, the DPC membership fee covers all their basic services.
DPC patients enjoy the added bonus of the independent physician’s extended attention. The physician can spend more time with the patient during office visits because the DPC’s patient panel is smaller. The DPC physician has more time to spend with each patient so a relationship can be developed that enables the independent physician to get to know the patient’s medical history and concerns more fully. In addition, most DPC physicians are available before and after the visit to respond to communication via text, email, or phone.
The DPC practice is growing in popularity. Particularly as healthcare costs increase, the simple monthly fee can help patients and independent physicians save on healthcare costs.