Say you belong to a gym.
You pay a flat fee per month and you can go as many times as you want.
Some doctors' offices are now operating that way, as opposed to paying a monthly insurance bill.
According to Direct Primary Care Dr. Julie Gunther and Congressman Raul Labrador, you can save a ton on health care, but there are still kinks that need to be worked out.
“Primary care is all of your non hospital based emergency care,” said Dr. Gunther.
Dr. Gunther says they charge a monthly fee where patients can be seen as many times as they like.
And it takes insurance out of the equation.
“In doing so patients can save up to 80 percent on their health care,” said Dr. Gunther,
The average cost is around $80 per month.
This payment method only covers primary care and there are some added costs for labs and X-rays, but that can be paid for using a health savings account, as some patients at Spark MD do have insurance but usually with a high deductible, or just like the patient-doctor relationship without the third party distractions.
“People pay for this in part because of the convenience and it's a more dignified care model, when people walk in we say 'Hi Steve just a second,' verses 'Spell your first and last name and have you had black lung?'” said Dr. Gunther.
Right now, patients with insurance can't use their health savings account toward the monthly fee, and patients using Direct Primary Care without insurance, are still subject to tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act.
Two drawbacks that Congressman Labrador says he is working to change.
“What I like most about primary care is it lowers the cost to areas that drive up health care costs the most, the health insurance premium and the cost of health care to the patient, so I think it’s a commendable effort,” said Labrador.
“The more patients that get this the more doctors will transition, and then I think we will have the wave of a pretty amazing grassroots movement,” said Dr. Gunther.
There are more than 600 clinics that operate this way nationwide.
Spark MD is one of a handful in Idaho.