Innovative. Affordable. Patient-centered. These are not concepts you would normally associate with America’s current health insurance and healthcare markets. Yet, they accurately describe another method of delivering care for a flat monthly fee. Imagine being able to see a primary care physician as many times for as many medical consultations as you need. No insurance required; in fact, it’s not even accepted. It’s that easy, and it’s called Direct Primary Care (DPC).
A quick internet search for “Direct Primary Care in South Carolina” shows that there are already DPC practices in South Carolina like this one in Spartanburg or this one in Mt. Pleasant or this one in Irmo.
Patients love Direct Primary Care. For, on average, between $50 and $150 per month, preventative care, check-ups, blood work, x-rays, all primary care needs are addressed. The arrangement is often cheaper than racking up expensive bills and wrangling with insurance companies over what is covered and what is not.
Furthermore, preventative care has the potential to shield patients from expensive ER visits down the road and those time constraints of the doctor that leave patients feeling short-changed.
Doctors love the arrangement too. Whereas outside the DPC system, a doctor’s income is directly related to the number of patients they see and can therefore bill, in a direct primary care model, monthly income is guaranteed whether the patient goes to the doctor or not. Instead of rushing through patient visits out of fear that not enough patients will be seen during the day, Direct Primary Care gives doctors the freedom to spend as long as they need with each patient. Some even make house calls!
Dr. Arnold Millstein is convinced. He is the Director of the Stanford Clinical Excellence Research Center. Listen to his short interview with Robert Siegel, host of NPR’s All things Considered.
While some argue that Direct Primary Care is just re-branded “concierge care,” nothing could be further from the truth. Concierge Care is a model whereby a certain subset of individuals who are able to pay often exorbitant monthly fees and are given “extra” treatment by the physician over and above what the physician bills the insurance company on their behalf. Thus, the physician receives not only insurance income, but added payments from the patient as well.
With Direct Primary Care, the “above and beyond” approach associated with the Concierge Model becomes the sole model for every patient. All the care you can get, all the time, no insurance required.
With the President and Congressional leaders eyeing the repeal of Obamacare, South Carolina should look to an option like Direct Primary Care as a free-market approach to delivering high-quality care to everyone at an affordable rate. Direct Primary Care may not be for everyone in every case, but it is a useful tool in the Healthcare freedom toolbox.
States who decide to protect Direct Primary Care practices are simply doing their part in finding ways to relieve their citizens from increasingly expensive healthcare costs, complicated and expensive insurance markets, and increasing consumer angst over the quality and expense of medical care.
It’s very possible that an Obamacare replacement will mean more private options and freedom as states serve as laboratories for democracy again. Direct Primary Care stands ready to flourish if Washington doesn’t get in the way.