Lancaster doctors look to new way to reach patients

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LANCASTER, Pa. - A growing number of doctors are looking at a new way to reach patients called direct primary care.

So here’s how it works. Rather than going to a doctor's office that bills your insurance, a monthly fee gets you 24/7 access to your primary care needs.

The doctors who are launching new practices using this model say it should give patients more time with their primary care physician at more convenient times.

“People that I work with every day are being hammered by insurance companies and all sorts of other red tape, and they tell me how they're spending as much time on paperwork as they are on patient care,” Dr. Anthony Mastropietro, a longtime doctor and administrator who recently launched Lancaster Personal Care Medicine, said.

He's not alone.

Dr. Patrick Rohal of Covenant M.D. in Lancaster is also launching a similar practice in January, in the hopes that greater transparency about cost will lure new patients.

“Sometimes people don't really know what the cost is until weeks later when the bills roll in from their insurance company,” Dr. Rohal said. “It's a way of decreasing co-pays and decrease the little nibbling away at your deductible.”

The doctors say their plans are not meant to replace health insurance since patients are required to have insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Instead, they say it should serve as a complement to the right insurance plan for patients.

“[Namely] a lower premium higher deductible insurance plan, with the whole idea being that there's so much more that direct primary care can keep under its umbrella that will save on utilizing other things and help to address also that fragmentation that's in primary care,” Dr. Rohal said.

There's an estimated 500 direct primary care providers across the country, a number these doctors think will grow due to rising health insurance costs and rules.

“I think I can render a service to my patients and practice good medicine and not have to have the hassle of dealing with the insurance outfits that really drive so many of our primary care doctors crazy,” Dr. Mastropietro said.