Due to growing demand, a Minnesota-based company called Nice Healthcare is offering affordable “concierge”-style primary care by visiting patients in their homes.
The company offers its direct primary care (DPC) services to employers as a supplement to company health insurance for $30 per employee per month. Employees pay no co-pays for the home visits and it includes care for dependents. Since opening in 2017, Nice Healthcare has gained 3,000 members.
Co-founder and CEO Thompson Aderinkomi says market research shows there is a demand for affordable, convenient primary care.
“We knew that with the rapid increase in the size of health insurance deductibles, many families in the middle class were avoiding medical care due to the cost,” Aderinkomi told Health Care News. “So we set out to create a primary care offering that was affordable enough for employers to pay 100 percent of the fees without passing any of the costs on to their already struggling employees.”
No Real Estate Overhead
Nice Healthcare has no physical locations, which helps keep down overhead costs associated with leasing or owning office space.
Additionally, by being “on the road,” health care providers can attend to patients more quickly.
“We provide full service primary care completely via same day house calls, video visits, and chat visits,” Aderinkomi said. “We even do labs, tests, and x-rays in the patient’s home. We also offer about 30 different prescriptions at no cost to the patient and deliver the prescriptions to the patient at home the same day at no additional cost.”
Employers Saving Money
A St. Cloud, Minnesota non-profit known as Wacosa that hires employees with disabilities is one of Nice Healthcare’s biggest customers, says Sandi Westergren, Wacosa’s human resources manager.
“It is absolutely fabulous,” Westergren said. “When we first started, I was thinking it was for [employees with kids] and rather than taking them to the doctor to get throat cultures or other things done they come to you; but it’s so much more than that.”
Managing chronic conditions is a particular strength, Westergren says.
“So, if you’ve got high blood pressure, instead of having to go into a doctor’s office for regular visits, they (Nice Healthcare) can do it,” Westergren said. “And they carry many of the medications.”
This is Wacosa’s first year with Nice Healthcare, and Westergren anticipates it could save the organization $1,000 per employee annually. One way is by keeping a lid on rising insurance premiums.
“As we’re doing this, we have seen our (insurance) claims go down, we should see our insurance rates drop, too,” Westergren said. “And with Covid, people are doing telemedicine and home medical visits that they otherwise may put off because they’re afraid to go out.”
A number of government obstacles at the federal and state level are holding the Nice healthcare back, Aderinkomi says.
“The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) prohibition on direct primary care being compatible with high deductible health plans is a significant impediment to the spread of our innovative, affordable, and accessible primary care,” Aderinkomi said.
At the state level, there are two main hurdles, Aderinkomi says.
“The fact that not all states have passed legislation that exempts DPC from insurance regulation is a major impediment to our model of care,” Aderinkomi said. “Our country also needs to standardize the licensing of advanced practice nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, and physicians across all states. The state by state approach is a significant barrier to getting affordable healthcare to families. Solving these three policy issues would greatly expand access to our affordable care for most middle-class families.”
Let Free Markets Work
Services provided by companies like Nice Healthcare are long overdue, says John Goodman, co-publisher of Health Care News and founder of The Goodman Institute for Public Policy.
“I think this is very exciting,” Goodman said. “This is the sort of entrepreneurial development that we expect from a free market for medical care. This kind of activity has been suppressed for way too long by the government and by organized medicine.”
Goodman says the Trump Administration has aggressively sought this type of access to health care and wants to lift restrictions to make such access as easy as possible.
“There’s a law of Congress that prevents HSAs from being used for this purpose,” Goodman said. “But the Trump Administration has indicated it wants to make it as easy as possible, not only for employers to empower their employees in this kind of market, but to allow the employers to choose the service the employees want.”
Leo Pusateri (email@example.com) writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota.