The Minnesota Senate is considering making it easier for health care providers and patients to enter into direct primary care (DPC) agreements.
Senate File 2723 (S.F. 2723) would define direct primary care agreements as a form of health care instead of as health insurance, freeing primary-care providers from the state’s insurance regulations.
Instead of billing insurance companies or the government for patient care, doctors providing DPC charge patients a regularly scheduled fee and list procedure prices up front.
State Sens. Scott Jensen (R-Chaska), Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), and Michelle R. Benson (R-Ham Lake) introduced the bill on February 26.
The state Senate’s Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee met on March 28 to debate S.F. 2723 but did not vote on the bill.
‘Absolute Control of Costs’
Jensen says DPC puts patients, instead of insurance companies, in charge of the health care process.
“Direct primary care is a model of providing primary care services that allow patients to have absolute control of costs,” Jensen said. “That’s because they sign up for it based on known facts. They know that if they sign up for $70 a month, that’s going to be $840 per year, and that’s going to cover all of their primary care. It’s going to cover their physical, if they get a sinus infection, have a sprained ankle, need cholesterol checked, etc.
“This bill says, ‘This is not insurance; this is a payment for medical services,'” Jensen said. “Having it that way, physicians and patients can quite readily and easily make this relationship.”
Responsiveness to Patients
Dr. Lee Gross, president of Docs 4 Patient Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship, says DPC can improve the quality of care.
“The DPC practice is very nimble,” said Dr. Gross. “It can respond to the patient’s immediate needs. You don’t need to bring them in the office to get paid like you do in the insurance system, and you’re not going to upcharge the patient just because they have more complicated problems that need more attention.”
Sweating the Small Stuff
Gross says DPC frees doctors to concentrate on details of patient care instead of dealing with bureaucracies.
“Cancer and hospitalization are things that insurance is good at dealing with,” said Dr. Gross. “Insurance is not good at dealing with day-to-day maintenance issues. Car insurance is not good at dealing with oil changes, homeowners’ insurance isn’t good at mowing the lawn, and health insurance isn’t good at handling day-to-day routine medical care, but it is good at the big stuff.”
Jensen says DPC can supplement traditional third-party payment plans for health care.
“People can go and purchase a direct care plan and a catastrophic care plan that would cover them for a heart attack or appendicitis,” Jensen said. “For a much more reasonable fee, they’ve covered things. It will bend the cost curve down in health care when a patient-doctor relationship is maintained and is not allowed to be fractured by an insurance company.”