Role of Direct Primary Care in Healthcare Equality [How Affordable and convenient care isn’t just a tagline]
It’s no secret that health and wealth are directly correlated. Studies show low-income adults are nearly five times more likely to report being in fair or poor health than adults with family incomes at, or above, 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). In 2020, the FPL for a family of four was $26,200. Low-income American adults also have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic disorders than wealthier Americans. They are also more than three times as likely to have activity limitations due to chronic illness. Limited access to medical care, being uninsured or underinsured, financial barriers, and systemic biases are but a few of the reasons for the lack of healthcare equality in the U.S. Here we’ll examine how we got here as well as one affordable solution to the problem.
Lack of Access to Care
Most impoverished neighborhoods lack reliable access to high-quality healthcare. Big providers want to make big money, so they go to areas where they feel they have the best opportunity to make that happen.
Because of reduced access to care and reduced affordability, low-income patients are less likely to receive recommended healthcare services, such as cancer screenings, annual physicals, and immunizations. Many take for granted that these essential services could mean the difference between life and death for those in lower-income brackets.
Even before a global pandemic, many businesses faced financial challenges that made it difficult, or nearly impossible, to offer health benefits. Many opted for high deductible health plans (HDHPs) that are cheaper to provide employees with but fail to cover essential healthcare costs to shield their bottom lines from constantly increasing premiums and health claims.
When offered, HDHPs are a popular option for low-income Americans because of their lower monthly premiums. However, when employees are offered a HDHP, they may not be able to afford the monthly premiums meaning they opt out of coverage. If employees can afford the premiums and enroll in the HDHP, the deductible is often unaffordable leading to healthcare avoidance and the lack of a primary care presence to provide essential medical guidance. In 2017, 40 percent of Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance had plans with deductibles over $1,500 for individuals or more than $3,000 for a family. With 50 percent of Americans reporting they have less than $400 on hand for emergencies, those numbers don’t add up.
Uninsured populations often live within impoverished neighborhoods. With quality providers unwilling to service those neighborhoods or provide care at an affordable rate, what can be done to help Americans struggling to survive?
One answer may be simple. Direct Primary Care (DPC) is not new, but current events have made it an even more vital component of the American healthcare system. Doctors love DPC because they don’t have to conform to insurance mandates to limit appointment times or worry about intense billing practices. Being able to spend the time necessary to address a patient’s needs is critical to building a relationship of mutual respect and trust while providing proper care.
DPC is a Crowd Favorite
Considering that 80% of healthcare services people need annually can be addressed with a family physician,1 employers love Direct Primary Care’s (DPC) no-claims environment. Instead of paying monthly premiums and insurance claims after an employee receives primary care, their employees can enroll in a monthly DPC healthcare membership for a low monthly fee. With a nationwide DPC provider like Healthcare2U, employers with multiple locations can provide the same quality of primary care to employees across every state.
Employees love the convenience and affordability of direct primary care. Most DPC plans offer primary care visits, telemedicine, or virtual visits for little to no out-of-pocket costs. And because members can use a direct primary care membership in conjunction with HDHPs and other healthcare products, families get the coverage they need, starting with day-to-day care.
Benefits brokers are implementing DPC strategies for satisfied clients nationwide. If you’d like more information on how DPC can help end disparities in healthcare, contact Healthcare2U.
1 Andrew Bazemore, MD, MPH, Stephen Petterson, PhD, Lars E. Peterson, MD, PhD, Richard Bruno, MD, MPH, Yoonkyung Chung, PhD, Robert L. Phillips Jr, MD, MSPH, “Annals of Family Medicine: Higher Primary Care Physician Continuity is Associated With Lower Costs and Hospitalizations,” 2018, 493
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