Out of frustration, some Maine doctors have decided to abandon the conventional treatment model for something called direct primary care.
Last July, Catherine Krouse was just about done with her career choice. Fresh out of medical school and her residency in family medicine, she didn’t feel eager for her future. She felt jaded.
“I knew for myself that signing a contract with a conventional model would be the end of me, that I wouldn’t go back,” she says. “I’d probably quit medicine.”
Quit, because Krouse says the way health care has evolved, patients often come second to the other demands on doctors: Filling out reimbursement forms. Calling insurance companies to battle for claims. Reviewing and signing off on stacks of patient paperwork.
“You just end up getting drained and drained and drained,” Krouse says. “And then when your cup is completely empty, then you just get guarded and angry. And then you put up walls, and that really creates barriers.”
So Krouse decided to set up a direct primary care practice. Earlier this month she opened Lotus Family Practice in Falmouth. She doesn’t accept insurance. Instead, she charges patients a monthly membership fee. “So it’s very direct. It’s just patients and doctors. There’s no one else in between.”
Membership is $60 a month for adults, $20 for kids. It covers an unlimited number of visits, which last about 45 minutes. Patients can also call or text Krouse any time they want. She also provides generic drugs at wholesale cost. Those savings alone, she says, can cover the cost of membership. “Pennies. They cost pennies.”