Its pretty clear that a coalition of “direct primary care” providers is pushing Congress to recognize subscription services as a service reimbursable under Medicare.
I believe they are differentiating themselves from “concierge” care, for political reasons. The coalition says concierge care is $2000-$5000, instead of under $2000. One of the main advocates for direct primary care says that it does not seek third party reimbursement, while concierge services might.
“The Primary Care Enhancement Act of 2016” has been brought to the Ways and Means Committee, where is was referred in September, 2016 to the Health Sub-Committee.
Sponsor: Rep. Paulsen, Erik [R-MN-3] (Introduced 09/13/2016)
Committees: House – Ways and Means
Latest Action: 09/19/2016 Referred to the Subcommittee on Health. (All Actions)
Direct primary care could get a big boost next year. Under the federal health care law, these practices will be able to operate in state-based health insurance exchanges. However, insurers on exchanges must offer a basic benefits package that includes hospital, drug and other coverage, so direct primary care practices will likely team up with other health plans.
If you’re considering a direct primary care practice, get a list of provided services and talk with a physician in the practice. Also, some practices that are similar to concierge care may accept insurance but charge a monthly fee for extra services. For options in your area, visit the Web site of the Direct Primary Care Coalition (www.dpcare.org).
The Primary Care Enhancement Act of 2016 proposes to amend the tax code so consumers can use their health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay physicians in direct primary care (DPC), bypassing insurance. H.R. 6015 would also enable Medicare enrollees to pay for direct primary care using Medicare funds, rather than pay out of pocket.
Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have introduced bipartisan legislation which clarifies that DPC is a medical service for the purposes of the tax code regarding Health Savings Accounts. The bill also creates a new payment pathway for DPC as an alternative payment model (APM) in Medicare. “Co-sponsors are important. They show Senate leaders that there is widespread support for the legislation,” said Sen. Cassidy when he addressed the DPCC Fly-in Sept. 24. We need your help today to ensure that S.1989 moves forward. Please contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the Primary Care Enhancement Act today.
On the Move in the States with DPC
16 States Move to Clear Regulatory Hurdles for DPC
Legislation defines DPC outside of Insurance.
As of June, 2016, 16 states have adopted Direct Primary Care legislation which defines DPC as a medical service outside the scope of state insurance regulation.
The DPCC has developed model legislation to help guide legislators and their staffs on the best way to accomplish this important reform. Click here to see the model bill.
States With DPC Laws:
• Washington – 48-150 RCW
• Utah – UT 31A-4-106.5
• Oregon – ORS 735.500
• West Virginia – WV-16-2J-1
• Arizona – AZ 20-123
• Louisiana – LA Act 867
• Michigan – PA-0522-14
• Mississippi – SB 2687
• Idaho – SB 1062
• Oklahoma – SB 560
• Missouri – HB 769
• Kansas – HB 2225
• Texas – HB 1945
• Nebraska – Leg. Bill 817
• Tennessee – SB 2443
• Wyoming – SF0049
Current as of June, 2016
Direct Primary Care is an innovative alternative payment model in primary care model embraced by patients, physicians, employers, payers and policymakers across the United States.The defining element of DPC is an enduring and trusting relationship between a patient and his or her primary care provider. In DPC unwanted fee-for-service incentives are replaced with a simple flat monthly fee. This empowers the doctor-patient relationship and is the key to achieving superior health outcomes, lower costs and an enhanced patient experience.
Direct primary care physicians charge patients a monthly fee for care and access to a package of services rather than by fee-for-service or insurance. The subscription model can grant patients increased access to doctors, discounted drugs and laboratory services.
According to Meigs, the proposed law will allow people with high deductible plans to use their HSA to pay for primary care, given that people with high deductible insurance plans can use their insurance for catastrophic coverage and hospitalizations, and cost-effectively tap their HSAs for primary care.
Direct primary care and concierge medicine: They’re not the same
SAMIR QAMAR, MD | PHYSICIAN | AUGUST 24, 2014
Direct primary care (DPC) and concierge medicine are rapidly growing models of primary care. Though the terms are used interchangeably, both are not the same. Such liberal use of terms, many times by even those within the industry, confuses those who are attempting to understand how these primary care models operate. As former concierge physician for the Pebble Beach Resorts, and subsequent founder of one of the nation’s largest direct primary care companies, I have attempted to differentiate the two based on extensive personal knowledge and experience.
First, concierge medicine. Born in the mid 1990s, this practice design was first created by wealthy individuals who were willing to “bypass” the woes of the current fee-for-service system by paying a subscription to access select primary care physicians. This access consists of same-day appointments, round-the-clock cell phone coverage, email and telemedicine service, and sometimes, as in my previous practice, house calls. Although some high-end practices charge as much as $30,000 a month, most charge an average monthly fee of $200.
In return, to allow such unrestricted access, physicians limit their patient panels to several hundred patients at most, a significant drop from the typical 2,500-plus panel size most doctors are used to. Many concierge doctors also bill insurance or Medicare for actual medical visits, as the monthly “access fee” is only for “non-covered” services. This results in two subscriptions paid by patients — the concierge medicine fee, and the insurance premium. Importantly, a few concierge practices do not bill insurance for medical visits, as the monthly fees cover both access and primary care visits.
Direct primary care started in the mid 2000s, and was created as an insurance-free model to serve a new patient population: the uninsured. In DPC, patients, and now their employers, are also charged a monthly fee, but the fee can be as low as $50 per month and there is typically no third-party payer involvement. Consumers pay physician entities directly (hence, direct primary care), and because the insurance “middle man” is removed from the equation, all the overhead associated with claims, coding, claim refiling, write-offs, billing staff, and claims-centric EMR systems disappears.
Patient panels can be as high as 1,500 patients per doctor, and there is typically no physician cell phone access or house call service. Similar to higher-priced concierge practices, DPC practices also allow for longer patient visits and telemedicine. The most important characteristic of DPC practices, however, is that insurance claims are not filed for medical visits.
Direct primary care’s definition, therefore, is any primary care practice model that is directly reimbursed by the consumer for both access and primary medical care, and which does not accept or bill third party payers.
Confusion arises from similarities that exist in both models, such as decreased patient panels, monthly subscriptions, and longer visits. There is added confusion when a DPC physician offers house calls or email access, typical of concierge practices. Confusion is maximized when a physician is by definition practicing direct primary care, yet calls the practice a “concierge practice.” Similarly, a concierge practice may decide to abstain from participating in third party payer systems, and thus would also be a DPC practice.
The distinction is important because direct primary care is explicitly mentioned in the Affordable Care Act, while concierge medicine is not. Several state laws have also recognized direct primary care as medical practice models, and non-insurance entities. In addition, the term “concierge medicine” causes visceral reactions in select social and medical circles, drawing criticism such as elitism and exacerbation of physician shortage.
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In summary, not all direct primary care practices are concierge practices, and not all concierge practices are direct primary care practices. The terms are not synonymous, and even the basic fundamentals of either model do not overlap. The key to differentiation is whether or not a third party payer is involved. If not, then the model is a direct pay, or direct primary care model, no matter what the fees.
Samir Qamar is CEO, MedLion and president, MedWand. He can be reached on Twitter @Samir_Qamar.