Options for direct primary care, or DPC, clinics in New Braunfels continue to grow, with the most recent clinic having opened earlier this year.

New Braunfels residents now have six subscription-based, membership primary care clinics to choose from. Before 2021 there was one, and before 2016 there were none, according to DPC Frontier, an advocacy group that works on behalf of physicians who choose to operate their clinics with this model.

The approach

Direct primary care is a growing practice nationally that has taken root in South and Central Texas in recent years, according to DPC Frontier. The term essentially means physicians, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners eschew traditional insurance and copay reimbursement models in favor of a paid monthly membership.

According to DPC Frontier, there are about 2,300 clinics that choose the DPC model in the lower 48 states and Washington, D.C. In the San Antonio area, DPC Frontier lists 20 such practices, six of those within New Braunfels.

To qualify as a DPC practice, the clinic must:
  • Charge a periodic fee
  • Not bill any third parties on a fee-for-service basis
  • Not charge a fee per visit that is more than the monthly or periodic fee
There are about 250,000 DPC patient members across the United States, according to DPC Frontier.

What’s special about it?

The newest clinic in New Braunfels is a pediatric practice that opened in March. Dr. Jennigale Webb operates Prickly Pear Pediatrics. Webb said many of the reasons patients are choosing doctors operating by this membership model are the same reasons practices are moving to that model.

Webb spent about five years in a traditional practice before opening her clinic. Outside of the payment model, Webb said DPC allows her more time with patients.

“I was really just feeling at my other job that I didn't have enough time with patients. Most checkups are scheduled for between 15-30 minutes, including the newborns, and I would really feel like I needed to spend an hour with a new family going over all the things,” Webb said. “I started looking into other ways to practice because in an insurance-driven clinic you need to see a certain number of patients a day, and you only have so many hours in a day, which means that you have to schedule patients that way.”

Breaking it down

According to a 2020 study by the Society of Actuaries, DPC patient members saw an average of almost 20% lower claim costs for employers, 40% fewer emergency room visits and 25% lower hospital admissions, among other findings.

Webb said some patients have traditional or high deductible insurance and choose to pay the membership on top of that for benefits they see in it.

“If you go to [an insurance-based practice], you don't quite know what you're going to be paying, and every little test is an extra charge on that,” Webb said. “So, with mine, no matter how long I take or what I do, it’s going to be the same price.”