As COVID-19 began to rapidly spread throughout the country, concerns over personal health and safety quickly outweighed the risks from chronic illness, causing many health plan members to put off routine and preventative care. Linked to an increase in the prevalence and seriousness of preventable and treatable health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, delayed healthcare visits were already on the rise prior to the pandemic, driven in part by rising insurance deductibles and out of pocket costs. The pandemic has since significantly contributed to an increase delayed care. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from September 11, 2020, an estimated 41% of adults in the U.S. avoided medical care during the pandemic, including 32% who avoided routine care.
As patients and healthcare providers began limiting in-person visits, many turned to telemedicine as the solution to ensure continued access and care. According to one report by The Commonwealth Fund, The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Outpatient Visits: A Rebound Emerges found the number of in-person visits declined nearly 60% within the first month of the pandemic, while telemedicine visits increased by 14% during this time period. While telemedicine can be a great option for certain aspects of routine care, it is by no means the cure-all solution. Employers can provide health plan members with flexible, on-demand healthcare, including chronic condition management, by utilizing a direct primary care (DPC) provider, often in concert with an existing health plan.
DPCs can provide a mix of flexible care options, including traditional in-office, telephone and video visits, as well as in-home visits. Employers pay a flat rate per employee for access to primary care services, including appointments (often same-day), lab work, x-rays and other primary care needs. Some DPC models have even expanded to provide prescription drug service and specialist care services like physical therapy and mental health. The broader platform of services offered by a DPC and the ability to offer flexible care options can significantly increase utilization verses a stand-alone telemedicine model. For example, Nice Healthcare, a Minnesota-based DPC provider, reports utilization rates 5 to 10 times higher than traditional telemedicine services.
Ensuring employees have continued access to primary care can help improve employee health and reduce overall health plan expenses for both employers and plan participants. In some cases, employers have been able to reduce costs and increase employee satisfaction by offering a DPC, even with a higher-deductible health plan:
For help designing a benefits plan best suited your employees’ needs, contact us.
Brian works with employers to design a well-rounded employee benefits program that will benefit their employees.
Brian works with employers to design a well-rounded employee benefits program that will benefit their employees. He brings a wealth of experience and talent to help employers understand how to best structure, fund, implement and manage their employee benefits program. He helps business owners, executives and employees meet current needs and plan for future goals. He has worked with employers of all sizes and from varying industries.
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