What to know about the lack of access to primary care
Primary care is integral to a good healthcare system and yet many Americans lack access to it. The federal government posits that nearly 84 million Americans currently don’t have access to primary care. Increasing access to primary care is super important to improving the health of the overall population because it can lower the number of hospitalizations and ER visits. Unfortunately, primary care spending is just a fraction (5-7%) of total healthcare expenditures in the U.S., unlike Western Europe, where costs are nearly double at around 14%.
So what gives? Why is the U.S. lagging behind other countries when it comes to access to great primary care?
For starters, we have a decreasing supply of primary care physicians. The national per capita number of primary care doctors has been decreasing at a rate of about five physicians per 100,000 people from 2005 to 2015. It’s anticipated that we could face a shortage of primary care doctors within the next ten years. What’s worse — most of the supply of primary care doctors centers around urban areas, leaving those in rural locations — who are often older, sicker, poorer and not as well-insured — facing an even greater shortage.
Part of the reason for this shortage is the fact that residency slots are hard to come by and the wage gap between specialists and primary care doctors is quite significant. Additionally, student debt contributes to the trend of pushing people into specialties that pay more money.
Why direct primary care matters
Here’s the issue: Doctors face increasing requirements of the government, more administrative work regarding record-keeping & data submission, and red-tape headaches. Patients, on the other side of the equation, are being nickeled and dimed to pay for healthcare. They also feel short-changed when it comes to actual time spent with the doctor. The long and short of it is that care has become too expensive and the patient experience is suffering.
Direct primary care give patients access to their primary care physician as much as needed without the fee-for-service model. Instead, patients pay a monthly flat fee and get unlimited access to their primary care doctor and relevant services like clinical and laboratory services, consultative services, care coordination, and comprehensive care management.
The healthier the patient stays, the less they need to see the doctor, and the lower the total costs the doctor faces. It upends the traditional model by incentivizing the doctor to provide excellent care, prompting less need for treatment from the patient. It’s a win-win. The patient is able to spend as much time with the doctor as they feel they need. The doctor is not pressured my middlemen insurance companies to fill out droves of paperwork or navigate through other red tape issues and is free to spend more quality time with the patient. This results in an overall better experience for both sides as well as better care.
Why direct primary care should matter to you
Direct primary care opens up a world of opportunity to you as a patient. No one should fear going to see the doctor, especially because of the cost. DPC helps taken hidden bills and surprise charges off the table. What’s more, you can actually enjoy a positive relationship with your doctor, ensuring you stay in optimal health at all times.
Not sure how to get started with DPC? Take a look at our Pathfinder bronze plan or our Trailblazer silver plan. Both have DPC wrapped into their plans, meaning you get to see your doctor whenever you want, as often as you want for $0. Get a free quote today to see how much money you could save by switching over.