Consumer Watch: Direct payer plans could save you money on health


From confusing bills to unclear costs, America has a problem with how much health care costs. Switching to a direct payer program could fix the cost of getting care according to supporters. Direct payer care doesn't deal with your insurance. Patients pay a monthly fee per month, and have access to their doctors all the time. Proponents say this model can fix the problems in the current health care system.

When you're sick, most people go to the doctor, and use their insurance no matter the issue. That comes with a co-pay, and higher cost for insurance to pay. There's a lot of paper work, leaving less time for patients. This has many in the health care industry ready for change.

“I was frustrated. I know that patients are frustrated. They call, they get an appointment. They are told they are worked in. They wait an hour or an hour and a half and they feel like they barely got five or 10 minutes with the doctor. The doctor is chasing their tail on the other end of that. They are going room to room to room maybe not even getting a bathroom break,” says Dr. Catrina Bourne family doctor with Primary Health Partners,

Dr. Bourne started in traditional medicine, a now works within direct payer care in the Oklahoma City metro. Bourne says that US health insurance problems could improve if everyone only used health insurance for the big stuff-- like surgeries and trauma or major illness-- and used direct payer care-- for checkups, or smaller issues.

“Just like your car insurance. If you started using your car insurance to fill your gas tank, change your tires, change your oil-- think about what our car insurance premiums would start going up to,” says Bourne.

Nurse practitioner Michelle Merrell says she made the move to help more people.

“All of the providers i know went into health care because they want to take good care of people, and this allows me to take good care of people,” says Merrell, APRN with Primary Health Partners.

Medical professional working under this kind of plan tend to earn slightly less than their counterparts in traditional health care, but do say they have a lot more personal and family time.

The smaller number of patients means that members of the clinic never get that out of office message.

“You can get a hold of us after hours. People have the ability to text us or call us, and so on an evening when you are wondering if you have a situation where you need to see someone, or not, you can give us a call and we can talk to you about it,” says Merrell.

Stopping some people is the cost. There is a monthly fee per family member, and the cost depends on the provider. Doctors also say people should keep paying for health insurance coverage, and have a catastrophic health insurance plan at a minimum.

At Primary Health Partners, children's monthly plans are 29 dollars and adults are between 69 and 79 dollars a month. Depending on your health needs, lowering your insurance plan and shifting the cost to this kind of membership could be a money saver. You will likely get more face time with your doctor with this option.

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