Advocates Of Flat-Fee Primary Care See Opening In GOP’s Market-Driven Approach

By Michelle Andrews
Kaiser Health News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Advocates of direct primary care believe their prospects are bright because the new Republican administration favors market-driven approaches to health care. The plan introduced by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price when he was in Congress would allow people to pay monthly fees for direct primary care with funds from health savings accounts.

Kaiser Health News

Back in the day, people paid for routine primary care on their own and used insurance only when something serious came up.

Some primary care doctors are betting that model can thrive again through a monthly subscription for routine care and a high-deductible insurance policy to take care of the big stuff.

But the changes raise questions about whether the approach really leads to more effective and efficient health care.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of “direct primary care,” as it’s called, for doctors and patients. Doctors charge a monthly fee, generally from $50 to $150, to provide routine clinical care and consultation, sometimes including basic lab work and tests. Patients who need other care, an MRI or surgery, for example, would be covered by their insurance policy, if they have one.

Freed from having to devote time and money to manage insurance claims, doctors say they can accept fewer patients and spend more time with them without focusing on what services are paid for.

Patients, meanwhile, may get more personalized care. They also may save money on insurance if they can pair their primary care plan with a cheaper, high-deductible policy.

Although only a fraction of primary care doctors practice this way, the proportion has grown from 2 to 3 percent in the past year, according to data from the American Academy of Family Physicians, which supports this type of practice.

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