What if every routine doctor’s visit was free?
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City is hoping to answer that question with Spira Care, an integrated health insurance and health clinic network open to select patients. Tuesday, the company announced it is adding three new clinics to the network in partnership with Seattle-based company Vera Whole Health, more than doubling the program’s scope.
Vera, which operates membership-based clinics on corporate campuses, will now have 17 clinics in seven states.
It’s yet another sign that times are changing for primary care, the front lines of the healthcare system. Tech giants including Apple and Amazon are working on internal primary care clinics for employees, and companies like One Medical are innovating in the space using cutting edge technology.
Spira Care’s selling point is its coverage of routine doctor’s appointments, which can sometimes cost patients hundreds of dollars. The plan fully covers all primary care visits, so patients won’t pay anything out-of-pocket for a routine checkup or a case of the sniffles. It also gives patients access to Care Guides, who help answer questions about benefits and coordinate care.
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The idea is to encourage patients to visit a doctor sooner and more often, to head off health problems that could become more serious and costly down the line.
It’s the same goal as Vera’s membership-based financial model, where patients — or their insurance — pay a flat monthly fee to have unlimited access to primary care. In a previous interview with GeekWire, Vera CEO Ryan Schmid has said the company hopes to drive a “health revolution” with the model.
Schmid described the current state of the healthcare system as a “sick care” system, which puts an emphasis on billing codes and treating a patient’s one-time illnesses. The underlying problem with this system, he contends, is the financial incentives.
“All stakeholders want something different, financially, which naturally creates a total mess,” Schmid said. To combat that problem, Vera and other innovators in the health space are employing a fee-for-value model where caregivers are rewarded for actually improving health.
“What that means is that we’re only incentivized to drive the same outcomes that you want, which is improved health for less money,” Schmid said.
The three new clinics will open in January in Kansas City, Mo., and the neighboring city of Lee’s Summit. They are in addition to two Spira Care clinics already in operation in Kansas.