High cost of health care may be boosting direct primary care membership

Study shows most consumers dissatisfied with the cost of care

A new study says the rising costs of health care are dissuading patient from seeking preventative care and may be driving membership in direct primary care practices.

The study, Trends in Direct Primary Care Report, from Hint Health, were assembled from published articles and studies, the U.S. Census, and two proprietary data sources – the Hint Health DPC Consumer Insight Survey and the Hint Health Database, which contains the largest dataset of information on the economics and development of DPC.

According to the study, the high cost of care in the U.S. continues to negatively impact Americans, with 63% of private health care consumers ranking the cost of care as the most dissatisfying aspect of their current healthcare option.

At the same time, as insurance premiums rise, DPC membership costs have remained steady. From 2017 to 2020, the median annual price of an individual retail DPC membership changed only slightly, from $77 to $75. An employer-paid membership for a family of four remained $158 in 2021 despite employer-sponsored health insurance premiums reaching an all-time high the following year.

DPC memberships are seeing an average annual growth of 36%, reaching a total growth rate of 241% from 2017-2021.

“More than half of private health care consumers ranked the cost of care as the most dissatisfying aspect of their current healthcare option,” said Aimee Leidich, head of operations, Hint Health, in a statement. “Health care costs are steadily outpacing income growth and inflation. Alternatively, DPC memberships remain affordable with little of the price inflation seen elsewhere.”

Physicians also report better support in DPC, with greater autonomy, compensation, and enhanced engagement with their practice. As a result, the number of doctors involved in DPC has grown. From 2017-2021, the number of active DPC clinicians per 100,000 people increased 159% in comparison to only a 6% increase overall in primary care providers per 100,000 peoplet.

Practices involved in a DPC network also saw growing membership, with affiliated practices seeing 402% growth in active members after three years compared to 27% for non-affiliated practices.

“From the data presented, it’s clear the fee-for-service care model is not an effective pathway to resolve our health system’s greatest challenges for cutting costs,” said Zak Holdsworth, CEO and co-founder, Hint Health, in a statement. “Working to eliminate preventative care services will only increase the number of costly chronic conditions down the road. Clinicians and employers are seeing the impact of the movement to do right by the whole system.”