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.”
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.