Per capita healthcare spending in the United States is more than double the average of other developed countries. With those costs set to increase, and the American Health Care Act enabling insurance companies to set their own prices in the future – is there a more affordable model for consumers?
Some providers certainly believe so and are offering a subscription based alternative. Known as ‘direct primary care’, a recurring membership fee or retainer is charged to cover what an average patient will require – this includes consultations, medication, medical supplies, diagnostic tests, etc.
One of the key consumer benefits is that doctors who practice direct primary care can dispense prescriptions from their own office. This enables them to source generic drugs at near-wholesale prices, and enable patients to buy their medication at a much lower price than by using a pharmacy.
Without the restrictions set by insurance companies – direct care physicians can prescribe the drugs that are right for their patients, and at a significantly lower cost.
There are numerous benefits for doctors joining the direct care model, including:
- more time with patients
- lower practice overheads
- lower risk exposure, and fewer medical errors
- zero insurance filing and associated paperwork
So what are the drawbacks with providing direct primary care?
Some drugs, such as insulin, do not have a generic equivalent and can be expensive to source and prescribe. Similarly, many practices won’t carry controlled drugs such as opioids. A big barrier remains with patient understanding and experiences within healthcare so far. Many will prefer to remain under insured healthcare due to the potential for hospital visits, emergency care and operations in the future.
There have been some criticisms of Direct Primary Care, saying that it is ‘unethical’ and ‘greedy’. There is a belief that the doctor is putting themselves and their profits before their patients. This seems unlikely with greater access to their preferred doctor for the patient, and lower drug costs. It’s also beneficial from the patient’s perspective to pay a set amount on a planned basis than be hit by unexpected bills in the future.
Direct primary care is a controversial healthcare model, but it could resolve many problems and issues doctors and patients face with government and private sector third-party payment arrangements. With the potential for better patient healthcare, and reduced burdens and costs for physicians – direct primary care is certainly a model that can revolutionize healthcare in the future.
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