What Is Direct Primary Care?

By Michael Teteault

MAY 23, 2013 – Direct primary care (DPC) is an emerging model that has gained some attention nationally in recent years. Sometimes referred to as “retainer practices,” DPC practices generally do not accept health insurance, instead serving patients in exchange for a recurring monthly fee — usually $50 to $80 — for a defined set of clinical services.

Related Article … The Difference Between Concierge Medicine and Direct Primary Care >>

Collectively, direct primary care (sometimes linked to the term concierge medicine) has more than a half million people on their rolls, according to the California HealthCare Foundation. They highlighted five large direct pay practices that use the retainer model in an April 2013 report. These direct primary care patient rosters are estimations:

  • Iora Health, with 2,400 patients
  • MedLion, with 3,000 patients
  • Paladina Health, with 8,000 patients
  • Qliance, with 7,200 patients
  • White Glove Health, with 40,000 patients via self-insured employers and 450,000 via health plans

Direct primary care providers help keep costs low by avoiding unnecessary referrals and by referring mainly to specialists willing to offer significant discounts. Despite this advantage, the DPC model may be hampered by low awareness among health plans and primary care physicians, resistance from some insurers, and resistance from competing hospitals and specialists.

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