If you’re dealing with expensive medical bills, there’s a new way to manage the expenses, simply by cutting out the middle man.
Dr. Eric Crall, a family practice doctor in the Tampa area, and many of his patients didn’t like that health care was dictated by insurance companies.
“At the end of the day, I would spend more time doing administrative tasks than seeing patients,” Crall said.
That frustration led Crall to try an experiment. He opened up a practice in Lutz that doesn’t take insurance for primary care. The concept is called Direct Primary Care and it’s based on a monthly fee you pay the doctor.
“There’s no copays, no deductibles,” Crall said. “There’s no additional cost for anything I do in my office, no matter how often I see the patient.”
Crall charges $40 a month for patients under the age of 40. It’s $50 a month for those over 50. Under the plan, families won’t be charged more than $150 a month. One of Crall’s patients says it works well for her family, with two young children.
“What we pay for the family plan ends up being less in what we spent last year for doctor’s visits,” Lisa Gerhart said.
The plan doesn’t cover everything, though. You will still need insurance, but Direct Primary Care can save money with a cheaper, high-deductible plan. Some compare it to a car insurance plan. Instead of billing your insurance company for routine checkups, patients can reserve it for the big, catastrophic events.
“Urgent care, specialty visits or, obviously, hospitalization. That’s what people need insurance for and that’s what we’re trying to get to,” Crall said.
The Affordable Care Act requires everyone to have health insurance coverage. And now, those plans are required to cover free preventative care. Direct Primary Care could pay off for someone who sees their doctor regularly, like parents with sick children or someone who is managing a chronic condition.
Direct Primary Care started with a doctor in Seattle, but is catching on with early adopters like Crall. Fees will vary from doctor to doctor and region to region around the country.
Some large businesses like Expedia have signed up to provide Direct Primary Care to their employees, and DPC is being tested in the federal government’s Medicaid program to see if it saves on costs there.