Direct Primary Care

Dr. Alex Lickerman / Chicago Now

Direct primary care began as a movement in the mid 2000s as a way to provide medical care to people with no health insurance. Since then, it’s become a way for all individuals and employers—regardless of their health insurance status—to obtain better access to medical care and better quality of care, all while lowering overall healthcare costs.

The main way direct primary care achieves this “triple aim” is by providing physicians more time to spend with patients. Patients pay a low monthly subscription fee for unlimited access to their own physician via in-person visits, telephone calls, and texts. Bypassing insurance and charging a flat monthly fee directly to patients enables direct primary care medical practices to cut out anywhere between 30 to 40 percent of their overhead (billing, coding, insurance reimbursement, and so on).

This enables direct primary care physicians to reduce the number of patients for whom they care, typically down to no more than 600. In contrast, primary care physicians practicing in the traditional fee-for-service model usually care for 2,500 to 4,000 patients, seeing 20 – 22 of them per day. (Insurance reimbursement rates for primary care visits are low and the cost of running a primary care practice is high so the only way fee-for-service primary care physicians can survive financially is by piling scores of patients into their practices.)

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