Direct care: an affordable health care option?

Holistic health recognizes that self-care comes in many forms and access to affordable health care is one of them. Some people even gather to pray for it! So if you are one of the millions of Americans without health coverage growing tired of the health care debate and just want to be able to see a doctor, affordably, keep reading.

For years now, there’s been a quiet buzz stirring about Direct Care (aka Flat-rate Primary Care, Concierge Medical Care, Direct Primary Care, DPC), a private member-based solution to primary health care. DPC isn’t your typical health spending account, HMO, or insurance plan. It’s more like a health club membership.

Using this model, doctors see patients for primary care which according to the Direct Primary Care website “spans preventative care (such as immunizations and check-ups), routine treatment of common injuries and complaints, and maintenance for ongoing health issues”. Patients pay an initial enrollment fee, then a flat monthly fee directly to the provider for unrestricted access to visits. No co-pays, no insurance forms, no in-/out-of-network providers, and perhaps best of all, no denial of benefits based on pre-existing conditions.

The general philosophy behind direct care is that when people have health concerns, they visit their doctor who is able to diagnose, consult and treat most problems. While specialists and hospitals are available for more serious or complex illnesses, the need to use them is not as likely as routine care. Yet the current health insurance model forces consumers to pay for the occasional unexpected, expensive treatment all the time. By cutting out health insurance companies, the direct care model allows private practitioners to lower their overhead, reduce paperwork and stop charging patients for expensive care they may or may not receive. The result is an holistic approach that encourages consumers to choose what doctor they employ, see that doctor as little or often as needed and pay less for low-cost services (plus minimal charges for generic medications, complex lab work, etc).

So what about insurance for a serious injury, surgery or ongoing treatment for a life-threatening illness? A catastrophic health insurance plan can cover those medical necessities. Deductibles are normally higher. And although rates vary depending on individual’s medical history and type of plan chosen (supplemental or comprehensive), they are typically much lower than traditional health insurance premiums.

Qliance is a leading direct primary care provider based in Seattle, Washington. Founded by Norman Wu and Dr. Garrison Bliss, Qliance offers affordable medical care that includes in-office visits, phone and email support to manage ongoing chronic conditions of its insured and uninsured patients. Recognizing the occasional need for additional services, they also partner with local medical service providers, make referrals and coordinate specialist care. With five clinics in Seattle, they plan to expand in the state next year.

The bottom line is that comprehensive health care is out of reach for many Americans, leaving them uninsured. For them, and especially for families with children, direct primary care is an alternative option for affordable health care. Having a medical system focused on patient care should fill at least one of the huge gaps left by our current system.

For more info: Forbes article