Great question… and one of the most common questions we get when explaining our practice to potential patients. Many people, when they hear about paying a monthly fee to see a doctor, automatically think of concierge medicine. Unfortunately, there is a negative stereotype about concierge medicine (that it’s only for the rich), that then gets transferred to the Direct Primary Care model.
There are many similarities. Both models employ an out of pocket monthly fee for better access to a doctor, longer visits, a better relationship with a physician, etc. There have also been studies showing a reduction in health care costs, largely due to a decrease in hospitalizations and other expensive visits, for both concierge medicine and Direct Primary Care. However, there are two major differences:
1) Price: Concierge practices often cost a couple hundred dollars a month, with the majority $200 a month and higher, regardless of age. Some, which cater to the uber rich, are thousands of dollars a month. And this is just the monthly fee and does not take into account any out of pocket costs per a patient’s specific insurance plan (we’ll get to this more below). Because of this, there is a limited percentage of the population that can actually afford to join a concierge practice on top of what they already pay for insurance.
Direct Primary Care practices, on the other hand, often employee a tiered pricing structure by age, and the vast majority of patients pay less than $100 per month. Our average cost per patient is about $60 per month. This means that for less than the cost of a cell phone and less than buying a coffee every day, patients get direct access to a physician and all of the other DPC benefits we’ve discussed before.
2) Insurance: Concierge practices still deal with insurance. They charge the monthly fee to cover direct and same day access to the doctor, longer visits, etc. But they still bill a patients insurance for office visits, procedures, etc. This means that if you have a deductible or copay, you’ll end up paying more out of pocket costs on top of the monthly fee to be a member of that type of practice.
Direct Primary Care practices cut out insurance all together. At Direct Doctors specifically, we do not charge any copays for visits, procedures, vaccines, etc, and do not bill insurance companies for anything that we do. While most of our patients have insurance, we do not utilize it for any of our comprehensive primary care services. There is one low transparent monthly fee that covers everything we can do in our office. Because we have the time and are taking patient finances into consideration so often, we can also help patients save money on labs, imaging and especially medications which can be huge savings for some families. Some patients save more money per month on medications than they pay to be members of our practice!
Hopefully this summary gives a better understanding of how Direct Primary Care and Concierge Medicine are different. We’d love to discuss this, and all aspects of our practice, further with you. And, as always, our patients say it best!
Lauren Hedde, DO and Mark Turshen, MD are Family Physicians and Founders of Direct Doctors, Inc. a Direct Primary Care Practice.