Direct Primary Care Cuts Through Obstacles to Care in Today’s Health Care Landscape
Samaritan Ministries Says DPC Practices Are a Smart Choice for Health Care Sharing Families
PEORIA, Ill.—When it comes to back-to-school time, some things go hand in hand: lunch boxes and backpacks, pencils and notebooks, peanut butter and jelly.
Samaritan Ministries International (samaritanministries.org), one of the leading health care sharing ministries in America, says there’s another complementary pair: health care sharing and direct primary care.
“For many patients, third-party payers for health care services have been an increasing barrier in the relationships between doctors and patients,” said Anthony Hopp, Samaritan’s vice president of external relations. “Some doctors are taking bold steps to solve problems by working with their patients apart from the third-party payer system, offering direct primary care—or DPC. Health care sharing and DPC practices work wonderfully together, as health care sharing members are direct-pay patients, and this model also frees doctors to focus on caring for patients rather than insurance reimbursement rules.”
One major DPC benefit is that pricing is simple and clear. For example, DPC physicians may choose to charge a monthly fee for individuals or families. This membership fee may include unlimited visits and some in-office services such as lab tests, shots, minor procedures and physicals, which is convenient for parents of students and athletes. For those who choose not to pay a membership fee, DPC prices for appointments, procedures and treatments are listed clearly and are usually well below standard industry charges.
Same-day or next-day appointments are common because DPC physicians have more time to spend with patients rather than with insurance forms. Doctors and patients can have in-depth conversations if needed, and contacting DPC physicians after hours or by phone or email is also a regular occurrence. Additionally, some DPC doctors make old-fashioned house calls when it makes sense to do so.
Samaritan Ministries members often work with doctors who operate under the DPC or concierge model. And some DPC physicians are Samaritan members themselves.
One of them, Dr. Bruce Jung, said he was frustrated when the federally qualified community health center he worked for moved in a direction that wasn’t in the best interests of his patients. He bought an old doctor’s office, embraced the retro feel it had by decorating it with a 1960s theme, and opened The Doc Shoppe in Corbin, Kentucky.
“My patients have come to understand that I work directly for them and not for a health insurance company, the federal government or their employer,” Dr. Jung said. “In the past, I was mainly paid by these other third-party payers and so in essence was working for them and not the patient. In a typical fee-for-service office, a patient is not much more than a tool from which to obtain the best ICD-9 diagnosis code possible to justify the highest reimbursable CPT procedural code possible to bring in the most revenue possible with each encounter. In our model I am paid directly by the patient, and so I am motivated ethically, financially and medically to do what is in their best interest alone.”
Likewise, Samaritan member Dr. Daniel Sneed, who converted his traditional practice in Dallas-Fort Worth to a DPC office called Direct Patient Services, cited similar concerns.
“I have, in effect, kicked out the negative aspects of insurance and government interference from my office,” Dr. Sneed said. “This results in a much more efficient delivery of health care in my practice. With no insurance verification of coverage, no cumbersome coding requirements to get reimbursed, no pre-requirements before treatment and no government audits to bully the doctor with, the doctor-patient relationship is greatly enhanced. Remember—health insurance does not equal health care.”
Samaritan Ministries also helps its members locate DPC practices by directing them to a map at DPCfrontier.com, where they can zoom into their geographical areas and search with city names or keywords such as “cash pay doctor,” “cash friendly doctor” or “concierge doctor.”
Samaritan’s 270,000-plus individual members (more than 82,000 member households) send monthly financial shares directly to other members, along with notes and cards of encouragement. Through this effective, God-honoring ministry, Samaritan’s growing Biblical community shares approximately $29 million in medical needs person-to-person each month. In fact, Samaritan Ministries members have shared $1.8 billion in needs over 25 years.