Around this time last year, Mason Reiner said R-Health was “bullish” on the growth of direct contract primary care in New Jersey.
The company celebrated its first new facility in the state Thursday.
R-Health, based in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, has contracted with the State Health Benefits Program and the education benefits program to provide primary care at no additional cost to employees.
The way the program works is sort of like a membership — the employer pays the membership fee and employees can visit an R-Health as many times as they need.
No copay and no deductible.
This works in tandem with existing insurance policies, since patients may need additional lab work or test outside the realm of a primary care office, according to Dr. Randi Protter, who is now practicing out of the new Ewing office.
“The R-Health concept is really interesting,” Protter said. “I went into primary care because I was amazed by the human body. In order to get to everything else, you have to have time to talk to patients. Ninety percent of a diagnosis is based on what the patient tells you.”
But with R-Health’s capping doctors at 1,000 patients, when a typical practice can see up to 3,000, it helps alleviate the physician’s time burden. Also, not being paid per patient means less of a focus on seeing as many as possible as quickly as possible.
Reiner said the company plans to focus on South and Central Jersey for the year and double the locations by the end of 2017.
“Anything Mercer and Monmouth south,” he said. “Maybe Essex County.”
The ribbon cutting of the Ewing facility, R-Health’s fourth in the state, was attended by state officials including Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
Reiner said the model in New Jersey can also work to attract young physicians who are looking for stable work environments with comparable financial compensation to working in a hospital, yet without the “fee for service hamster wheel.”
“So much of what’s driving the shortage in primary care physicians is that primary care has been relegated to a volume-driven referral engine. Physicians spend 40 percent on administrative and billing and things that have nothing to do with patient care,” Reinter said.
He believes others will be interested in the model and, as one of his potential new physicians said, “fall in love with primary care again.”