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Frank Wu and Jeff Yuan are the co-founders of Taro Health, the newest provider of health insurance on Maine’s Health Insurance Marketplace.
Physician burnout has risen to alarming levels while health insurance costs are also on the rise. The result? Consumers pay more money for less time with doctors who are overworked and overcommitted to seeing more patients than they can feasibly spend quality time with each day. In fact, a recent study found that primary care doctors would need 27 hours in a day to follow recommended guidelines for care if seeing an average number of patients.
The American health care system is broken. But we believe there is a unique opportunity — even responsibility — for insurance carriers to remove administrative burdens for doctors and lean in to reverse physician burnout, which in turn gives patients higher value and quality care. Patients should be able to email or text their doctor and receive a timely response. If you need a visit, you should be able to expect care the same or next day. You should be able to have a visit without having to wait three months to be seen.
The health care system should be focused on reducing friction for doctors and patients, and investing in ways to create more meaningful doctor-patient relationships. The direct primary care model aligns with this belief. It allows doctors to see far fewer patients than traditional primary care doctors, meaning appointments are less rushed, you can communicate directly with your doctor over the phone and you can be seen on the same or next day when you need an appointment. It benefits the doctors, too, who are able to spend more time with their patients and move away from models that simply don’t allow them enough time in the day to do their best work.
Those who have heard about direct primary care likely know it as the “anti-insurance” health care model. Many DPC doctors left insurance-based practices to escape factory-style medicine of seeing as many patients as possible. Direct primary care doctors build meaningful, trusted relationships with their patients. They believe good medicine takes patience and flexibility. In short, they want to spend time with patients, not insurance companies.
Direct primary care isn’t new, and in fact it’s been growing in popularity over the past several years. According to a recent study, there has been a 241 percent increase in DPC membership from 2017 to 2021 and the number of active direct primary care clinicians per 100,000 people has increased 159 percent (compared with only a 6 percent increase in the number of active primary care providers). Maine is leading the way with one of the highest density of direct primary care doctors per capita.
Direct primary care isn’t what most of us have grown used to when seeing our doctors. Under this model, doctors, patients and insurers can be on the same side, making real change. It’s a rebellious and independent idea, something that Mainers have a lot of experience with, as the state motto itself suggests: Dirigo (I lead).
That’s why we’ve made the investment to become the first insurer in Maine to combine the direct primary care model with coverage for specialty and more-complicated care and launch it as the first new offering through Maine’s Affordable Care Act marketplace in more than a decade.
Changing health care for the better has to start somewhere. We believe Maine is that place.