We all get how a gym membership works: Pay a set fee, and then work out. Depending on the plan, you may have unlimited visits or only have access to a certain number of classes each week. What if health care worked in the same, simplified way?

That’s the premise behind direct primary care (DPC), a medical model new to Colorado that works separately from—but not in place of—standard health insurance. Patients pay a monthly fee (typically in the $50 range) directly to their primary care office for unlimited visits. Each time you go in, you pony up a small amount (around $10); plus, depending on the practice, you’re responsible for the discounted costs of additional care such as vaccinations and blood panels. “It’s concierge medicine for the masses,” says Dr. Lisa Davidson, a physician at Stapleton’s Insight Primary Care, which transitioned to the DPC model in July. “It takes the mystery out of medicine. It tells you how much everything is going to cost.”

The model started evolving in 2007 and has quickly emerged on both coasts—Washington state, New York, Silicon Valley—but Insight Primary Care and Nextera Healthcare (with offices in Longmont and Firestone) are the only physician’s offices offering it in Colorado. While it may not make financial sense for the young and healthy (if you rarely go to the doctor, why pay a monthly fee that will go unused?), it can be a good fit for the self-employed, people with chronic illnesses who require regular checkups, and young families—kids pay reduced rates.

Davidson recommends pairing the monthly format with a traditional, high-deductible insurance plan to ensure that you’re covered in case of emergencies. Patient Jean Nicholson has done just that. The self-employed 50-year-old is spending a bit more on her health care with the addition of DPC, but she says the pros outweigh the cost. “The doctors spend so much more time with me,” she says. “I never feel rushed when I’m in there.” Some of the other perks: 24-hour access to your doctor via phone or email and same-day appointments. “We’re trying to move away from the 10-minute visit to the 30- to 60-minute visit and take care of everything, instead of one issue at a time,” Davidson says. “It’s more about quality care. I think it’s a better way to practice medicine.”



Insight Primary Care

2373 Central Park Blvd., #205



Nextera Healthcare

8308 Colorado Blvd., Ste. 200, Firestone; 2017 100 Year Party Court, Unit 1, Longmont



This article was originally published in 5280 December 2012.
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.