The AARP reported earlier this week on a growing trend among doctors opting out of insurance contracts and simply accepting cash payment for services. Known as direct primary care, this trend is a tremendous boon to self-pay patients.
by Sid Kirchheimer, AARP, August 6, 2013
Fed up with waiting weeks for a medical appointment — and then getting only a few precious minutes with your doctor? The unnecessary tests and referrals to a specialist? Insurance hassles, red tape?
So are doctors. And a small but growing number are refusing to accept their patients’ medical insurance. Instead, doctors are running their practices on a “membership” model that they claim allows them to spend more time with their patients and to provide better care…
Patients pay a monthly membership fee — typically $50 to $80. In exchange, they get a more generous allocation of appointments, sometimes for the same day or the day after they called. Appointments usually last longer than the average seven minutes per insurance-based visit. Doctors are often accessible via phone, email or Internet chat and some even make house calls.
At some practices, there are no additional copays. Routine tests and procedures are included. At others (usually charging a lower membership fee), certain services are provided at a significantly discounted rate, or a small fee may be charged if patients request more time with the doctor. Privately insured patients may seek reimbursement for such costs on their own.
Whether joining a direct primary care practice is right for you as a self-pay patient will depend on a number of factors, including how frequently you or members of your family need to visit the doctor. If it’s fairly frequent, at least once every month or two, then finding a direct primary care practice to join might be a good way to not only save money and get the medical care you need, but actually get better access and care than the insured!
To find out if there is a direct primary care practice near you, the web site Direct Primary Care provides a search tool.