Tired of Costly Health Insurance? Consider Direct Primary Care

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With Obamacare in serious trouble, those who aren't fortunate enough to have employer-sponsored health insurance are forced to pay through the nose for anything resembling decent coverage. Luckily, there's another option that may both improve the quality of care you get and lower your healthcare expenses: direct primary care.

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What is direct primary care?

Also known as concierge medicine, direct primary care is a billing system that allows patients to pay doctors directly instead of paying an insurance company that then pays the doctor. Patients will typically pay a monthly fee, ranging from about $25 to $150, to a primary care doctor, and in exchange they get unlimited access to that doctor. A direct primary care patient can see their primary care physician as often as they like, and these doctors often make themselves available on nights and weekends (some even make house calls).

Pros and cons of direct primary care

Doctors using a direct primary care model usually need far fewer patients in order to turn a profit. That means they can afford to spend much more time consulting with individual patients and treating their health issues. This model also encourages a much higher level of access to doctors, making it easier for patients to reach out any time they have a concern.

However, because direct primary care only includes treatment from your primary care physician, most patients will also need catastrophic health insurance policies to cover hospital visits and specialist treatments. Luckily, the cost of catastrophic health insurance is usually far lower than the cost of a comprehensive health insurance policy.

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While the number of direct primary care physicians is growing, it's still fairly low. Less than 2% of the nation's 900,000 licensed physicians have adopted a direct primary care model, so it may be difficult to find a doctor in your area who will accept such an approach -- especially in rural counties.

Is direct primary care right for you?

If the bulk of your healthcare needs can be met by your primary care doctor, this model may be a good fit for you -- assuming you can find a doctor who accepts direct primary care. The Direct Primary Care Coalition has a nationwide search tool on its website (scroll down the page to see their map); other networks may provide more localized search tools (for example, Freedom Healthworks lists direct primary care physicians in Indiana). Try googling "direct primary care" plus your state name to see what and who is available in your area. You could also try to talk your existing primary care doctor into adopting direct primary care if he or she doesn't already accept it.

On the other hand, a patient with a frequent need for specialist treatments probably wouldn't benefit from direct primary care. Such a patient would need to buy fairly comprehensive health insurance just to cover the specialist bills, which would make direct primary care superfluous. If that sounds like you, stick with the traditional health insurance model and consider your options for minimizing healthcare expenses instead.

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