Category: Direct Primary Care

Direct Primary Care keeps Medication Costs Low

admin

19 March 2019

Hi, thank you for reading! My name is Dr. Jeff O’Boyle. I am a board certified family medicine physician. My clinic, Beyond Primary Care is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In this post I am answering a common question that I receive, and that is how does Direct Primary Care (DPC) keep medications costs low for it’s members? Offering low priced medications is a key feature of virtually all DPC practices, and is something that is done to increase the value of a membership. Just how low? Many DPC practices do in-clinic dispensing and can provide hundreds of medications to their patients at a tenth of the costs that many national retailers can provide.

How DPC Practices Keep Medication Costs Low

DPC practices, like pharmacy retailers have applied for and obtained their medication dispensing license from their respective states. This allows a DPC provider to contract with pharmaceutical wholesalers of medications, the same wholesalers who retail pharmacies such as RiteAid, Walgreens, or CVS may use.  My clinic, Beyond Primary Care, uses two wholesalers of medications, AndaMeds and Bonita Pharmaceuticals. 

These wholesale companies sell the medications, often in large quantities to the DPC practice. However, unlike hospitals and retail pharmacies where selling medications IS their business – resulting in the expected mark-ups (250%!) and high-prices as noted by the American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits– DPC practices turn around and sell the exact same mediations to their patients at those near-wholesale prices. As noted, DPC sell the medications to their members in this innovative manner because our primary business is taking care of you and NOT being just a pharmacy. Your membership for care to a DPC practice allows for this innovation. 

Savings from Medication Costs

You may be or may know some people who take multiple medications. Medications for blood pressure, diabetes, urinary incontinence, anxiety, heart conditions, COPD, or erectile dysfunction may add up to hundreds of dollars a month you are paying out of your pocket. Compare this to the costs I charge my members for the exact same medications. Often times the money saved in medication costs alone pay for a DPC membership! Don’t see your medication on my sample list? Don’t worry, I may still stock it or I can order it too!

* Prices are subject to change without notice, one month supply listed unless noted

Did I Mention In-Clinic Dispensing?

Many DPC practices do in-clinic dispensing of medications. Once the doctor evaluates you and discusses the best course of treatment, that provider can have the necessary medications dispensed to you before you leave the office. In urgent situations, this saves you time, energy, and of course MONEY, something that rarely happens in fee-for-service medical offices. 

Obtaining Specialty or Brand Name Medications

As I mentioned in my earlier post, there are times a member needs or would benefit from a certain medication that is brand name only (very expensive) and would be best obtained through insurance that requires a prior-authorization (what is prior authorization) from the insurance company.

In this scenario, we will work to fill out the necessary paperwork to get your needed medications at reduced costs or even reach out to the pharmaceutical companies seeking a reimbursement or free supplies on your behalf. A great example is we got one of our members Vivitrol, a vital medication for Medication Assisted Therapy in Addiction Medicine. This medication costs over $1,000 on the market, but we worked to get our member the medication FREE of charge with their insurance. Did I mention the office visit and the injection itself were included with the membership? So the patient literally paid $0. Saving money for our patients gets me so excited! 

Direct Primary Care Works With Your Insurance

admin

5 February 2019

Hi, thank you for reading! My name is Dr. Jeff O’Boyle. I am a board certified family medicine physician. My clinic, Beyond Primary Care is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In this post I am answering a common question that I receive, and that is does Direct Primary Care (DPC) work with your insurance? The answer for a vast majority of DPC clinics is yes, DPC works with your insurance, but not for your insurance. This is an important distinction.

DPC does not work FOR your insurance

This is the essence of DPC, that it works directly for you- the patient! We forgo insurance payments in order to save our patients from the arbitrary, intrusive decisions that inevitably follow with third-party payers (health insurance). Furthermore, since DPC practices are independent, we are free from hospital contractual agreements and can offer reduced prices on laboratory tests, imaging, and medications. As noted by this Wall Street Journal article, hospital systems are ignorant of their actual costs. Instead, they often increase prices to meet profit margins.

DPC works WITH your insurance

While DPC’s goal is to cover the vast majority of healthcare needed for all individuals, there are many instances in which a patient may need to utilize their insurance to see providers or utilize services outside the membership.

Specialist Referrals

This would be when a member needs to see a specialist for a condition that requires care past what could be offered in a family medicine clinic. Examples include physician specialist, psychiatrists, counselors, and physical therapists.

Say a member needs a referral to an oncologist- which is a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers. No one ever anticipates needing a such a doctor. But when called upon, a DPC doctor will work to find a doctor that accepts your insurance, help coordinate your care, while minimizing your financial impact. How do we minimize your financial impact? If that specialist requires imaging, medications, or blood work, DPC practices will work with you to find the lowest costs– often through our DPC clinics- that meet the needs of the health provider. 

Hospitalization Coordination

From time to time, accidents or serious medical conditions do occur and an elevated level of care is required where a member needs to be monitored 24/7 by a team of doctors and providers.

An example could be a member suffers a broken arm from falling and needs to be hospitalized for a major surgery. DPC will help communicate with your inpatient hospital team of providers making sure they know your current health status and working towards understanding your options for care upon discharge. While we may not be able to care for you in the hospital, we can certainly use virtual medicine (also known as telemedicine) to discuss your needs and questions. We can also give you helpful advice to make sure you won’t receive any unexpected bills from the hospital upon your discharge.

The following picture is a hospital bill from a patient who posted her hospital bill online. The patient was contemplating hurting themselves and walked into an Emergency Room seeking help. The patient states the “physician charges” are NOT shown that bring the grand total to over $18,000!

Here is some FREE Doctor Advice from Beyond Primary Care: In the hospital, ask to know the identity of every unfamiliar person who appears at your bedside. If you’re too ill, ask a companion to serve as gatekeeper. Write it down. What seems like a pleasantry may constitute a $700 consultation

Special Medications

One of the coolest features about DPC is many practices offer in-clinic dispensing of hundreds of generic medications, often at substantial price differences compared to retail pharmacies. Still, there are times a member needs or would benefit from a certain medication that is brand name only (very expensive) and would be best obtained through insurance that requires a prior-authorization from the insurance company.

In this scenario, we will work to fill out the necessary paperwork to get your needed medications at reduced costs or even reach out to the pharmaceutical companies seeking a reimbursement or free supplies on your behalf. A great example is we got one of our members Vivitrol, a vital medication for Medication Assisted Therapy in Addiction Medicine. This medication costs over $1,000 on the market, but we worked to get our member the medication FREE of charge with their insurance. Did I mention the office visit and the injection itself were included with the membership? So the patient literally paid $0. Saving money for our patients gets me so excited!

Virtual Home Medicine in Direct Primary Care

admin

3 January 2019

Hi, thank you for reading! My name is Dr. Jeff O’Boyle. I am a board certified family medicine physician. My clinic, Beyond Primary Care is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In this post I am answering a common question that I receive, and that is how does Direct Primary Care (DPC) take care of it’s members with virtual home medicine? Virtual home medicine, also referred to as telemedicine, is a where you connect with your doctor via phone or computer’s webcam without physically being in the doctor’s office.

The Exception rather than the Rule

Why is it nearly impossible to get a doctor to talk with you over the phone in a timely fashion? Because because certain services like virtual home medicine are typically not be reimbursed by private insurance carriers and government payers. Nearly 40% of what we do in medical offices the patient doesn’t actually have to be there. But why are you there? That is the only way for doctors in a fee-for-service system to get reimbursed for your care, is to actually make the patient physically come in to the brick-and-mortar office to be seen- no matter how routine (eg- common cold, urinary tract infection) or obscure (filling-out paperwork for FMLA or work) the visit seems.  

Standard of Care with DPC

Under the DPC model of care, we naturally provide such care – yet another freedom we enjoy together as a result of our independence from the restrictions of third-party payment. As noted by this Forbes article, telemedicine pairs well with DPC. Since DPC has opted out of insurance contracts altogether, and we contract directly with you, the patient. DPC offers our patients around-the-clock access to primary care medical needs in exchange for an average fee of $50-75 per month. Phone calls, emails, texts, FaceTime- are included in a patient’s membership. Patient are routinely connected with their doctors within minutes to hours when reaching out, versus days to weeks with fee-for-service doctors.

Benefits of Virtual Home Medicine

One of the defining characteristics of DPC is that we keep our practices small so we can spend more time with our patients. Because we have the increased time in our visits to know you well, we can streamline your care when you’re sick away from home or even at home. Many illnesses can be diagnosed and treated with a simple conversation by phone or computer webcam.

Say you are traveling out of state and feel sick. You have access to a conversation with your DPC doctor from your pocket. We will discuss your symptoms, discuss management, then we’ll locate the nearest pharmacy and order the medications most appropriate for your present circumstances.

As a doctor, there have been times where I have seen patients- with just the act of walking from the waiting room to the examination room- get winded or experience excruciating pain. Why would doctor offices allow this? Where is the concept ‘first, do no harm?’ If you are local, often times the DPC doctor may deliver the medications right to your address, saving you the hassle of a trip that may potentially worsen the condition.

Curbside Referral Consult

Adding more value the DPC membership at no additional cost to our patients is many DPC practices participate with electronic consults, or online consultations for speciality care. Primary care can handle nearly 80-90% of all medical conditions, but there are times when a condition may be past our scope of practice. Instead of rushing the patient to the nearest specialist, which will result in a bill likely through the patient’s insurance, many DPC practices seek medical advice on behalf of our patients through an online service call RubiconMD. Through this online service, many DPC practices pay a monthly fee where we can get medical advice on behalf of our patients from more than 100 medical specialities. The company guarantees a response time within twelve hours. The DPC physician fills out the necessary forms, get’s the response through the RubiconMD service, then will pass this medical information onto the patient- at no cost!