New Primary Care Models, Delivery Methods Save Money, Enhance Care

Primary care physicians can curb healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes via telemedicine and new payment models and purchasing options, witnesses told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday.

In a direct primary care model -- what Joshua Umbehr, MD, of Atlas MD in Wichita, Kansas, characterized as a more affordable cousin of "concierge care" -- patients pay a monthly fee based on age.

Most adults in his practice pay $50 per month, and coverage for children starts at about $10 per month, Umbehr told the committee.

That membership provides patients with unlimited home, work, and office visits and telemedicine services, all without copays, he said. In addition, most basic procedures that a primary care physician performs -- such as stitching, lung or bone testing, and biopsies -- are all free in his practice, he added. Other physicians may charge a nominal fee -- perhaps $5 -- to cover these services.

"We can get typecast as anti-insurance or anti-government," Umbehr said, but he said he supports the idea of insurance, when it's used appropriately.

"Insurance is perfect for expensive things, hospitalizations, major car wrecks, your house catches on fire, but ... you don't submit an insurance claim to wash your car, to paint a new room in your house, [or get] an oil change. ... Insurance is a great tool, but not for affordable things," he told reporters after the hearing.

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