10 May 2019
Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care is a Direct Care clinic serving patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.
The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being.
In this post I am answering a common question that I receive, and that is how does Beyond Primary Care (DPC) keep laboratory costs low for it’s members? Offering low bill rates for labs is a key feature of virtually all Direct Primary Care (DPC) practices, and is something that is done to increase the value of a membership. Just how low? Many DPC practices do in-clinic phlebotomy and can provide numerous laboratory studies to their patients at a tenth of the costs that many hospitals and fee-for-service providers can provide.
To start DPC practices typically do their own phlebotomy (that is the collection of blood from your veins) and rarely bill for these services. This starts the savings before a single drop of blood is collected. DPC practices then contract with laboratory diagnostic companies, many times the same companies that service smaller hospitals or fee-for-service clinics. My clinic, Beyond Primary Care, uses a few laboratory diagnostic companies, Quest Diagnostics, True Health, and Aurora Diagnostics.
Prior to drawing any labs for our patients, DPC practices negotiate what we call ‘client bill rates’ with these diagnostic companies. A client bill rates is basically saying, what is the lowest cash price for a particular laboratory study you can offer to my clinic’s patients? Compare this to smaller hospitals or fee-for-service providers. They bill for phlebotomy (U of M states they charge $9 for this service alone) and then these providers bill the labs through your insurance. Often times the laboratory costs often never negotiated down on behalf of the patient because there is no incentive from the practice to do this.
DPC gets these low laboratory fees for their members in this innovative manner because our primary business is taking care of you and NOT being just a blood-draw center. Your membership for care to a DPC practice allows for this innovation.
I have a colleague who recently had a pap smear completed, which is a diagnostic test used in females to detect cervical cancer. She claimed she had ‘Cadillac Health Insurance’ through her employer, meaning basically she thought she had really great insurance that would cover the costs of her healthcare. Look at her bill below and what she was left to pay out of pocket. At my clinic, Beyond Primary Care, the procedure of completing the pap smear if part of the membership. No extra charges. The fee for the pathologist (that I have negotiated) is $44. The difference in costs in this ONE laboratory study alone would pay for months of healthcare at any DPC clinic.
DPC providers understand you may need to see another specialist from time to time, and these providers may want their own labs completed. A common question I receive is if the other specialist request labs, can I get them done through your clinic?
Yes, absolutely this is another great way to minimize your financial impact. No doctor or hospital can force any patient to have routine laboratory studies done only at their location or where they tell a patient to complete them at. That is against the law. They may use convincing language saying ‘the results integrate into our electronic system faster,’ or ‘those other providers may not know exactly what I want.’ Stay firm and request a written and signed order for your labs. Your DPC clinic will complete the exact same labs, bill you at the much lower rates (compared had you used your insurance), and will promptly fax the results over to the requesting specialists that meet their needs. As noted by this Wall Street Journal article analysis of medical services, prices tend to be higher when services are performed in hospital outpatient facilitates instead of at doctors’ offices.
20 April 2019
Dr. Jeff O’Boyle with Beyond Primary Care teams up with Dennis LaVoy CFP® CLU® with Telos Financial to discuss ways individuals, businesses, and families can free up cash flow.
4 April 2019
Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Care’s blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care serves patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.
The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being.
Today, I’m glad to welcome guest blogger, my friend Dennis LaVoy. Dennis and I co-authored this piece about freeing up cashflow through Direct Primary Care (DPC).
Dennis LaVoy is the owner of Telos Financial, a fee based, holistic financial planning firm located in Plymouth, Michigan specializing in serving young professionals and families. Dennis is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) professional and a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®) founded Telos to provide financial advice and uses his experience, knowledge, and expertise to help families and individuals in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and across the country achieve their financial objectives.
He went to school at Eastern Michigan University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude while receiving his degree in Finance. He has worked 10+ years as a financial advisor and opened his own firm, Telos Financial in February 2018.
We’re going to discuss some of the financial incentives for using a DPC model.
Health insurance coverage is a very personal decision each family must make on their own, considering their personal values, tolerances, geographic location, and needs. Direct primary care is a membership model of health care that works well in conjunction with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), commonly referred to as ‘catastrophic insurance.’ Combining a DPC membership with a HDHP addresses the main drivers of increasing cost in healthcare, such as the patient being seen in a timely manner, being proactive about your health, and ancillary medical costs (medications, labs, imaging). This allows individuals and families to have extra money on-hand every month, often saving thousands of dollars per year. So, if this type of insurance aligns with your values and tolerances, it can mean big monthly savings for your family versus a higher premium insurance arrangement.
Hospital systems and insurance-based clinics have higher costs for many medical services and their prices do not reflect the true cost of services even after insurance negotiations. When eliminating the costs of using health insurance, many patients can find equally effective and far more affordable options for their healthcare needs.
For example, let’s say your family is pretty healthy overall and have a high premium/low deductible health insurance policy that you pay a lot of money towards every month, where your monthly premium is $1,600, or $19,200 per year.* You believe you are not extracting enough value from your insurance, but still want coverage for those ‘what if’ scenarios.
Switching to a HDHP insurance plan combined with a DPC membership still means you have that insurance for those ‘what if’ scenarios, but now also you have virtually unlimited access to your doctor where they can focus directly on you and not the middleman (insurance companies). Your new monthly insurance premium is $718*, and by enrolling in a DPC practice for as low as $130** a month you will have $750 in savings every month, or $9,000 per year.
*These figures were obtained by providing realistic information to ehealthinsurance.com to compare health insurance rates for 2 adult non-smokers along with 2 children for comparable health insurance plans that are compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare.
**This figure was obtained by combining the rates for adults and children at Beyond Primary Care, Ann Arbors only direct primary care practice.
Combining a DPC membership with a HDHP can save families and individuals thousands of dollars per year where this arrangement is appropriate. Because Direct Primary Care provides so much in a membership, it is gaining national attention for the associated cost savings. A testimonial to this national attention is Consumer Reports listing Direct Primary Care as a top five smart money move in 2019 saying “joining a DPC medical practice will give you around-the-clock access to your doctor and could save you money on primary care.”
With a couple hundred saved each month, that is money you can have working for you- not the health insurance companies. An extra $9,000 may allow you to create an ‘emergency fund,’ pay off loans, or even invest for the future.
A $750 savings per month could build a substantial investment portfolio over time. I always recommend working with a financial planner to decide how best to invest for your family, but depending on your income, goals, and life situation, you could also save to a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or to a non retirement investment account.
$750 per month is a lot of money for many families. Over time, it can be hugely impactful for long term financial. Let’s further play out the scenario in this example and you have a family of 4 and that you were able to invest $750 per month at 7% growth. 7% is an assumption based on a balanced portfolio, as a point of reference, the S&P 500 from 1937-2017 (90 years) averaged 10.4%. Further, let’s assume in this example the family of 4 is two adults aged 30 and they’ll save for 12 years (Let’s say until the kids move on).
In this example, at the end of 12 years or age 42 for the adults, you would have saved a total of $108,000 and the account would be worth over $175,400! If they didn’t save another dime after that, the account would be worth over $1,000,000 around their age 65 and 3 months. If they were able to continue the $750 per month savings, when they reached age 65, the account would be worth $1,532,591 on a total investment of $315,000. The numbers really speak for themselves and really demonstrate the power of compound interest.
DPC is not available locally in all communities. If you do not utilize healthcare services on a regular basis or when you do, you are just looking for one-off visits or one-time services, DPC probably is not the right fit. As always, it is something you have to consider personally.
If your employer provides a ‘comprehensive’ high premium/low deductible policy, DPC may not initially be advantageous. Still, consider bringing up DPC to your human resources leaders and incorporating into your benefits package. A partial, or fully self-insured model in conjunction with DPC has been show to result in a 30-60% reduction healthcare expenditures.
The views expressed are my own opinions and do not apply to every situation. Your situation may vary so make sure to consult a professional for advice prior to making any decisions.
Financial planning should take into consideration all your needs and wants, review costs and tolerances, and educate yourself about the options. To learn more about financial planning, Dennis LaVoy, CFP®, CLU®, or Telos Financial please check out his website at https://telosfp.com/. If you believe Dennis may be a good fit for your family and you live in the southeast Michigan (or really anywhere), call him today at 734-468-3050.
These examples are for illustrative purposes only, not indicative of any specific investment product. Material discussed herewith is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only, please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.
Dr. Jeff O’Boyle of Beyond Primary Care is not affiliated with FSC Securities Corporation.
7 December 2018
Hello and thank you reading my blog at Beyond Primary Care and trying the BPC Good Eats recipes. This featured recipe is a Tuna Harvest Salad. These recipes are my attempt, in a way, to bridge that Doctor’s adage of “Eat Better & Exercise More.” In this post, I will showcase a healthy meal made on a budget, my pictures are pretty decent, and that is how I got into this food endeavor.
Tuna Harvest Salad
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Adapted from: Damn Delicious
4 (2 oz) cans tuna in water, drained
1 cup greek yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup green onions, diced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and Pepper
4 leaves Bibb lettuce
2 apples, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
1 (16 oz) package baby carrots
1 (16 oz) package raw almonds
1 lb red grapes, seedless
1) In a medium bowl, combine tuna, yogurt, lemon juice, dijon mustard, carrots, green onions, and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2) Place lettuce leaves into meal prep container. Top with tuna mixture.
3) Arrange apples, cucumbers, baby carrots, almonds, and grapes around tuna mixture.
4 December 2018
I recently met a doctor and self-proclaimed underserved medicine wonk who bellowed that DPC doctors ‘cherry pick’ healthier and wealthier patients, leaving the the vast majority of individuals without care and fewer doctors to choose from. Nothing is farther from the truth- Direct Primary Care is not concierge medicine. I wanted to scream (I didn’t) that this perception whereby accepting a patient’s insurance somehow improves access to health care. I wanted to point out how the health care services this doctor was providing relies so heavily on third-party reimbursement systems, costs for their medical care have likely gone up. But in the end, the before-mentioned doctor was so entrenched in the health care insurance matrix, I could only use their misconceptions to help educate others.
Direct Primary Care doctors run their own business so that we can do what is right for a change in health care; Treat individuals the way everyone wants to be treated by giving patients the time and peace of mind they deserve. We have transparent pricing on the care for our memberships, and do not charge more for complicated patients, or management of difficult or chronic medical conditions that require more frequent trips to see the doctor. Our plans work great for anyone at any level of insurance or for individuals at any level of savings and income.
Direct Primary Care wants to work for you.
My goal with opening a direct primary care practice was to make healthcare more affordable and accessible to everyone in the community. I have worked in the fee-for-service system, up-billing every visit to maximize insurance reimbursement (remember, costs are passed down- ultimately to the patient). I remember the conversations about patient’s prescribed blood pressure medications that cost $100 a month, and how I felt powerless to offer alternative ways of obtaining more affordable medications. I know the gut-wrenching decisions I had to make in cutting short a conversation about a patient’s knee pain because I was already a half-hour behind, offering them to return for a subsequent visit two weeks away.
At some point, my job as a family doctor in the fee-for-service system felt more like just a title and salary. After spending the better part of a decade in medical school and post-graduate training, I wanted my role as a doctor to have value. Value for providing my patients with unparalleled access to care. Value for providing my patients with transparent pricing on health care services and helping them navigate the system when needed. Value for sitting down with my patients, spending the time with them that is needed, and being there. That is the value in Beyond Primary Care.
26 November 2018
It is fairly easy in exceeding office expectations for the area of customer service, as people have an increasingly low expectation for the service they get at the doctor’s office. It’s normal in fee-for-service office systems to have to wait an hour or more to be seen, and then get only a few minutes of the doctor’s time (if a doctor is seen at all). Many patients often find they half-day off or work or activities, just to be seen. This has left people seeking alternative facilities, such as urgent-care type setting for their ailments.
You likely scheduled a 15-minute time slot. When the doctor’s medical assistant calls you back, you are on the clock. 15 minutes includes everything: time to walk back from the waiting room to the exam room, time for the medical assistant to take vitals (eg- blood pressure, temperature), time for the medical assistant to do the office intake questions. All this, even with the best and fastest medical assistant takes 7 minutes at a minimum. That leaves 8 minutes. 8 minutes for the doctor to do any courtesy conversation (eg- how have things been, what have you been up to since we last spoke), time for the history of illness questions, time for the physical exam, time for discussing what the possible diagnosis is, and time to wrap up the visit by either dispensing medications, ordering laboratory studies, or helping to coordinate your care. By the way, the doctor is going to want to document that visit in your electronic health record. 8 minutes is NOT enough to discuss acute or chronic illness, let alone anything. This results in, at best, frustration. At worst, people avoid care they should be getting.
With Beyond Primary Care, a premium is placed on exceeding office expectations, and again this is done because it’s in the best interest of our clinic, but returning health care to what it once was- focused on patient care.
14 November 2018
If you are in the process of open-enrollment, consider a better plan- Direct Primary Care (DPC) with Health Insurance. This post is the second of a two-part blog post where I detail how anyone, regardless of their coverage of insurance, would potentially stand to benefit from direct primary care services. Check my earlier blog postings for the first part (and other cool things too… like the recipe for a yummy Chicken Noodle Soup).
You read my first post and have looked at your own insurance or enrollment options, and say “I am paying a lot of money for health insurance.” Maybe you are left wondering how direct primary care can fit in or rather “What kind of health insurance should I purchase with DPC?” I went on a health insurance exchange to give everyone a better idea of what pairing insurance and a membership to Beyond Primary Care would be like.
Practical & Affordable
The following slide features a hypothetical family of four, that lives in Ann Arbor, MI. Let’s say the parents are in their 40s and they have two young children. Their household income is $65,600/year, which is the median. This family has a number of things happen in the course of their hypothetical 2017, listed in the left column. A somewhat busy year medically, but not catastrophic.The family purchases either a gold (high premium, low deductible) plan, a bronze (low premium, high deductible) plan, or a bronze plan paired with Beyond Primary Care ($130 a month for family membership). Then let’s see what each of these occurrences “costs” out-of-pocket under each of the three scenarios, and then add up the total out-of-pocket expenses for 2019 in the last row.
Notice that in the last column, the family paid their bronze plan premium ($10,908 for the year) AND the monthly fee for Beyond Primary Care ($130/month, or $1,560 for the year). Despite the extra expense of Beyond Primary Care, they still came out way ahead compared to the gold and bronze plans. This is because Beyond Primary Care offers many types of out-of-pocket savings, including: no visit copays, no additional fee for stitches, and substantial discounts on labwork, medications, and radiology. These savings help to hedge against using that high deductible.
Tolerance & Values
At some point in your research of health insurance, it no longer becomes analytical but needs to revolve around a conversation about tolerances and values.
What is your risk tolerance? As example, if you pick plan ‘B,’ what monetary hit can your family afford to take if you get ‘run over by the bus?’ Health care in the US, is a service, and it is expensive. What do you value in your healthcare? As example, do you care about longitudinal care? This is where a doctor really knows you and your family. Do you value access to your doctor, or appointments that run on-time?
With Direct Primary Care, patients are paying the practice, so we are very conscious of trying to give a patient their money’s worth. If DPC can give them value (a concept that has become foreign to healthcare) and patients are happy with our care, they will continue to stay in the practice. It’s in DPC’s best interest to do this, so we do a number of things to save patients’ money:
Health Insurance can be Expensive.
Insurance is a hedge against financial disaster, not a prepaid healthcare. DPC is not meant to replace insurance, nor does the model in any way encourage patients to drop their insurance. People need a way to pay for the high-cost areas of care, such as surgery and hospitalizations. DPC doesn’t try to address paying those costs.
Direct Primary care does offer excellent and affordable healthcare that can compliment a person’s insurance. DPC focuses on decreasing their patient’s need for specialty care, ER visits, and hospitalizations by focusing on health and prevention. Doing so can (and does) reduce the need. With Direct Primary care we are delivering a higher level of care at a known price.
7 November 2018
If you are in the process of open-enrollment, consider a better plan- Direct Primary Care (DPC) with Health Insurance. I often get the question, “How does direct primary care work with health insurance?” This post is the first of a two-part blog post where I detail how anyone, regardless of their coverage of insurance our level of income would potentially stand to benefit from direct primary care (DPC) services. Check my blog post regularly for the second part (and other cool things too… like the recipe for a Dorito Taco Salad, because why not?!).
Figure out your Monthly Costs: Known as a Premium
Premiums are what you pay on a monthly basis to be insured. Premiums vary on the type of plan you choose. As example, you’ve done your homework and picked a health plan that costs $150 per month. You are paying $1,800 for essentially an insurance retainer, a cost to keep your insurance active. You’ll need to pay your premium on time every month.
Direct Primary Care has most membership fees are between $50-$100. The pricing for membership fees at my clinic, Beyond Primary Care, can be found here. This gets you full access to your doctor, regardless how many times you need to be seen. You could pay around $600 a year. The cost of a DPC membership is often significantly less than just the cost of having the insurance, let alone using it.
Reaching your Deductible
Deductibles are what you have to pay out of pocket before your health care plan kicks in. You may also have different annual deductibles for different types of care (as example: hospital care, laboratory tests, medications, etc). As example, you pick a plan with a $1,000 deductible meaning you are on the hook for all medical bills up to that amount before insurance kicks in.
Direct Primary Care provides you with with primary care services without government or insurance involvement. Your membership to a DPC practice does not influence your deductible. As example, you see your DPC doctor because of a mysterious symptoms. That visit was covered by your membership. When a person goes to a traditional fee-for-service practice, they won’t know the cost of care upfront, and labs and medications are potentially much more expensive than we offer. The predictability and transparency of cost is what makes DPC appealing.
Understanding the Relationships between Premiums and Deductibles
If you are healthy, you may want to dish out as little money as possible on the monthly premiums (to keep more in your own pocket), but still have coverage in case of an accident, sudden illness, or life change. Be aware, the less you pay for that monthly premium, the higher your annual deductible. Some folks may want a low deductible, but your premium will be thousands of dollars a year.
Direct Primary Care offers these healthier people improved access to care. Just because you are assigned a doctor by your insurance doesn’t actually mean you get to see your doctor, let alone in a timely fashion. DPC does not charge more for complicated patients, or management of difficult or chronic medical conditions that require more frequent trips to see the doctor.
This is a fixed percentage of your medical bill you share with your insurance company once you have reached your deductible. As example, you have a 80/20 plan. This means if you have a doctor visit after you reached your deductible, and their fee is $150, you are on the hook for $30 while your insurance covers the rest. You still have your copayment though.
This feature is just as important as premiums and deductibles, and is a term for the total amount your insurance plan will require you to spend on medical care in a single year. If you reach this amount, your health insurance will cover the rest of your care. Note, you may have reached your deductible, but are below your out-of-pocket maximum, you will still be required to pay some of your health care costs.
Seeking Transparency in Health Care Costs
No wonder health insurance is so frustrating and confusing for most people. Using automobile insurance as a parallel, health insurance has done the equivalent of paying for gas, oil changes, windshield wipers, and other car repairs in addition to covering collision and liability. Using insurance would allow these things to have artificially set prices which are unreasonably high (since it’s covered by insurance). The cost of your routine maintenance would go up, and insurance could dictate what shop or gas station you could go to for service. But in reality, consumers are already motivated to do those things and will pay out of pocket to maintain their car so as to avoid needing to use their auto insurance at all.
Health insurance is suppose to be a hedge against financial disaster, but people are seemingly are using insurance to cover every ache, pain, anxiety, and pill resulting in artificially inflated prices. How can a outpatient clinic charge $600 for 1-hr procedure? Or $90 for a generic medication? Because unlike bananas, Americans and most doctors have NO idea what an one hour procedure or generic medication should cost- and ultimately how much they will be on the hook for- until they decide to get it done. For better or worse, this has created a demand for transparency among individuals. Direct Primary Care can help fill that void. Check back soon for part 2 of this blog post.
17 October 2018
Beyond Primary Care is hosting an open house this month and next month!
All open house events start approximately at noon. Dr. O’Boyle will discuss his clinic Beyond Primary Care, and the movement of Direct Primary Care, for approximately 10 minutes. Afterwards he will take questions from anyone. If your question is really good, it may end up on our FAQ page!
Can’t make these dates or times but still interested? Don’t worry, just contact us or call 734-395-2850. We will work with your schedule to arrange a time where you can visit the clinic and discuss your health care!
Hearing about Beyond Primary Care for the first time? Beyond Primary Care is a family medicine clinic and a part of a new way for patients to access medical care called ‘direct primary care.’ The model is membership based health care, where the patient pays a monthly fee directly to the clinic. The doctor provides the patient with primary medical care without insurance or government involvement. The patients get great access at a low, predictable cost, about the same as a cell phone or cable plan. This model allows the clinic to offer innovative services to further add value to the membership.
16 October 2018
Did I mention that at Beyond Primary Care in Ann Arbor Michigan, we aim to bring affordable blood work to you by being 100% transparent about our pricing? I have mentioned this before about individual medications, but after all, there is more than just medications to be transparent about.
Can you remember an instance where a doctor advised you to get blood work done, but they didn’t know if your insurance would cover it or even how much it would cost? There are examples of this occurring all the time in the news. Such as a $17,000 bill for a urine drug screen or owing $478 dollars for a complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic panel (Our shameless self-promoting plug, Beyond Primary Care’s total price for these tests is $17.28). As a personal example, my wife recently got blood work for what the doctors described as a nominal cost. Yet, the explanation of benefits we received stated the insurance would not cover the tests, which are priced at 4-figures! Upon discovering this and discussing with both the insurance and the doctor’s office, no one has yet to give us reassurances or answers. No transparency there.
The jury is still out on my personal experience, but you can avoid the headaches and uncertainty of this type of disjointed healthcare. At Beyond Primary Care, if lab work is needed, Dr. O’Boyle will discuss with you the reason for the blood work and discuss the total costs of the blood work before beginning. Dr. O’Boyle performs his own blood draws (naturally at no additional cost to you), and then finally sends them out to be interpreted at those agreed upon reduced costs.
What about those affordable blood work results? Dr. O’Boyle will communicate with you what the laboratory study means, perhaps in office, through a phone call, or a text- just to give you peace of mind. That is comprehensive family medicine.