How Direct Primary Care Shines a Light During Pandemic

In our previous piece, we discussed how the lack of price transparency in the American healthcare system has become an addictive painkiller — the “opiate of the masses.” Protection from the pain of prices that are hidden (opaque) dulls our thinking just enough so that we don’t get too worked up.

There’s a different model for the practice of medicine that is gaining increasing support among physicians and patients.

Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a timely subject because physicians using this model are among the best equipped, best prepared, and most effective on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic.

Pennsylvania is the first state to begin educating the general public, business groups, and medical schools about this model, and the first state to receive a grant from its medical society for that purpose. But DPC practices are springing up all over the country, with general practitioners leading the way, although specialists have started to follow.

Under this “membership model,” a member-patient has around-the-clock access to the services of the physician. On average, the monthly fee is $60 per patient. DPC physicians recommend insurance solely as a hedge against a financially catastrophic medical event. Apart from that recommendation, they want no entanglement with health insurers, and take no payments from them.

Prices for services in the DPC model are fully transparent.

Most importantly, the DPC model allows patients to use one of the keys to lifelong health: an enduring, personal relationship with a physician.

Kimberly Corba, D.O., a DPC physician in Allentown, explains how DPC doctors are responding to the current pandemic: “During COVID-19, we are able to tele-med with our patients, and keep them out of the ER and urgent-care facility, thus preventing more exposure to COVID-19.”

Dr. Corba described a critical advantage of not being owned by a corporate hospital system or beholden to insurers. “We didn’t have to wait for the suits in the C-suites to get moving. We did what was best for our patients. Like other DPC offices, we had the kits for COVID testing weeks ago. We are unconstrained by bureaucracy, and thus improvised to make masks and gowns so that we could continue to provide attention to our patients.”

Have you ever heard the legends about house calls by doctors? “Many of the thousands of DPC physicians around the country are making house calls, drawing blood while there, caring for our patients with chronic issues who need continued monitoring,” Dr. Corba said.

As for the savings achieved under this model, she offered the following: “Chronically ill patients save thousands of dollars every year because DPC physicians dispense medications at cost, and we contract transparently with labs and imaging centers to secure better value for our patients.”

Yes, America needs to disinfect its system of the coronavirus as quickly as possible.

DPC medicine, with its hallmark of price transparency, can allow the sunlight to shine through and disinfect a healthcare system that is itself deeply sick, stopping the contagion of hyperinflation in its tracks and restoring it to better health.

Look into it, won’t you?

At the moment, physicians are being hailed, deservedly, as heroes who are risking their own health in the struggle against the pandemic. It’s especially apt that I write this as National Physicians Week (March 25-31) nears its end and on March 30, designated as National Doctors’ Day. But when it comes to the dysfunction in American healthcare, not all physicians are blameless. Some have abetted it. Our next installment will tell you about them — some of the fattest fat cats in the medical industry.

This article originally appeared in the Intelligencer and is featured here with Author permission.


Marion Mass, M.D.
Marion Mass, M.D.
In 2016, I was privileged to be a co-founder of Practicing Physicians of America (PPA), a true grassroots organization. We have a diverse board, including Brian J. Dixon, M.D., pediatric psychiatrist; Niran S. Al-Agba, M.D., pediatrician; Westby G. Fisher, M.D., cardiologist; and Judith L. Thompson, M.D., general and breast surgeon. With the publication of the position paper, Reducing Cost and Waste in American Medicine: A Physician-Led Roadmap to Patient-Centered Medical Care, for the first Free2Care Physician Symposium in April 2019, groups similar to PPA networked to form the FREE2CARE Coalition, which has since become an umbrella for 30 groups, 8 million citizens, and 70,000 physicians. Many in the coalition now speak, write, and advocate at the state and national levels to advance the agenda articulated in the original position paper. I have no conflicts of interest, have never taken a speaking fee, and serve as a volunteer on my county newspaper’s editorial board and with my county’s health society. Friends and family know my foibles and faux pas best. Sometimes, I’ve been so focused on the task at hand that I’ve run errands in public in my bathrobe—my attire of choice when writing at home.

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