What is DPC?
Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a membership model where members directly pay the doctor a low monthly fee in return for quality care. In a DPC practice, the patient panel is only 300-500 patients per doctor (vs. in a traditional clinic, each doctor is responsible for 3,000-5,000 patients). The lower patient volume means the doctor has more time for each patient, there is no wait times, and doctors can interact directly with the patient via text, phone, or email. DPC returns the patient-doctor relationship into a collaborative, healing partnership.
Read more about DPC:
Direct Primary Care Providers Lower Cost of Concierge Services - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Forbes - Why patients should consider direct primary care
Is DPC the same as concierge medicine?
DPC and concierge are similar in that patients directly pay the doctor and care is more patient-focused. However, most concierge practices will still bill insurance while also charging a monthly fee. Concierge medicine also implies "luxury" and "exclusivity," with monthly fees sometimes in the thousands. Dr. Ma strives to provide quality care while remaining accessible and affordable for everyone.
Do you take insurance?
North Star does not take insurance, but we are happy to see patients with insurance. Having to practice medicine through the rigid and absurd rules dictated by insurance companies is a large part of why Dr. Ma left the traditional insurance-based medical practice to start her own DPC.
Do I still need insurance if I join your practice?
At North Star we can treat about 70% of healthcare concerns. However, you will need something for emergencies, hospitalizations, surgeries, etc. Some members have high deductible health insurance plans and some choose to join a healthshare such as Christian Health Ministry or Sedara Health, Zion Health.
Should I still become a member if I don't go to the doctor often?
Definitely! The DPC model allows care to be centered around the patient, so we're there for you in sickness and in health.
Moreover, Putting off preventive and wellness care can lead to poor consequences. Dr. Ma has seen far too many easily treated problems put off due to lack of insurance and concerns for cost, resulting in lost limbs, longer healing times, worse outcomes, and it breaks her heart.
"Nothing is as expensive as disease," especially in America where hospitalizations and ER costs can bankrupt families. Dr. Ma feels that if it was not so painful or expensive to go to the doctor's (long wait times, takes forever to get an appointment, put on hold forever, expensive copays, ridiculously high deductibles, etc), more people would prioritize their health and prevent / treat diseases early.
Dr. Ma strongly believes in "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Do you have provide care after hours?
Yes, hours are subject to change, but there will be some evenings and weekend office hours available because Dr. Ma understands that sometimes it's just not possible to try to see a doctor during work hours.
Can DPC actually save me money if I already have insurance?
Yes! Copays through insurance can quickly add up (i.e. copays of $100 for each urgent care visit, $500 copay for ER visits for something easily taken care of in clinic), you can get surprise bills for services you thought were covered, etc. Lab prices can be cheaper through North Star even for labs that are "covered" by insurance. Same for medications.
And if you value your time, how long is that 15-30min wait at your PCP, a 2-4 hour wait at the urgent care clinic, or worse, a 4-8 hour wait at the ER worth? Time is money, right?
How are your prices so affordable?
In short, by NOT accepting insurance! This helps eliminate needing to hire administrative staff just to bill the insurance companies to make sure the clinic gets paid for services provided (insurance companies like to avoid paying doctors as much as possible too). By not having to see 30 patients/ day, Dr. Ma doesn't need a giant office space with 5 exam rooms so she can juggle 3-4 patients at once, or an army of Medical Assistants to room patients, take their vitals, etc. Dr. Ma keeps her overhead costs low so she can pass on cost-savings to her patients.
What if I leave your practice, can I re-join?
You can, as long as Dr. Ma's patient panel is not full (remember, Dr. Ma's patient panel is only about 1/6 to 1/10 a traditional doctor's panel size). However, there will be a re-enrollment fee, as this model will not work if patients only join when they're sick and leave when they're well.
Can I still join if I have Medicare or MediCal?
Yes! You will need to sign a waiver declaring that Medicare will not be billed for the NSDPC membership cost and that the patient will be responsible for the membership. Medicare and MediCal can still cover labs, imaging, medications or hospitalizations.
Can children join North Star DPC?
Yes, but at this time, children must be enrolled with at least 1 adult. We also do not offer childhood vaccinations, although we do recommend them.