L.B. 1119, sponsored by Nebraska state Sen. Merv Riepe (R–Ralston) and signed into law by Gov. Pete Ricketts in April, expands state employees’ health care options by establishing the direct primary care pilot program, which began allowing state employees to enroll in June.
A low-cost alternative to the traditional insurance model, DPC allows patients to contract directly with their doctors for primary care services paid for through a monthly fee. Fees range from $50 to $150 per month and cover patient needs such as office visits, medication, and lab tests at wholesale prices, with greater access to doctors.
Employees enrolling in the pilot program will also receive health insurance to cover medical needs beyond primary care.
‘It’s a Win-Win’
Arianna Wilkerson, a government relations coordinator at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says patients receive better care under the DPC model.
“Direct primary care is a new, alternative way for patients to receive services from their primary care physicians,” Wilkerson said. “The quality of care and service is much better than what they would receive under the traditional insurance model, because they get to spend more time with their doctor during office visits. Patients also get more access to their doctor. They receive better treatment and services, and they get it at an affordable price.
“Under DPC, patients are healthier and save money, so it’s a win-win,” Wilkerson said.
Voice of Experience
Riepe says his experience shows DPC benefits both patients and physicians.
“I was a hospital administrator for almost 40 years and have a real interest in reforming health care,” Riepe said. “My interest is to find something that is affordable, accessible, and high-quality. DPC excludes the insurance company and creates a direct relationship between the physician, or provider, and the patient. For a monthly fee, generally the price of a cell phone bill, patients receive unlimited office visits and greater access to their doctor, and are not burdened with copays or deductibles. The physicians get away from some of the paperwork and are able to spend more time with their patients and focus on patient care.”
Riepe says DPC makes health care more affordable for the average person.
“If a family has $100 and they have a choice between buying groceries for the family or going to the doctor, they’re going to spend the money on groceries,” Riepe said. “With DPC, they can do both, because they can go to the physician without a copay or paying a deductible. This is particularly important with deductibles now being as high as $7,000 [per year]. There are not a lot of people who can afford to pay these bills until they reach their deductible limit.
“With DPC there is a real motivation to take care of oneself, because you can go to the doctor earlier, and earlier intervention helps reduce the cost of care,” Riepe said.
‘A More Intimate Relationship’
Wilkerson says DPC opens new avenues of communication between patients and physicians.
“Direct primary care saves money and leads to better health outcomes because people are incentivized to communicate with and see their doctor on a more routine basis,” Wilkerson said. “This ensures they stay healthy and are treating issues before they fester into serious problems.
“Under this model, patients and doctors develop a more intimate relationship because doctors are more accessible and responsive to their patients,” Wilkerson said. “They are now communicating with patients via phone, text, and Facetime. This is different from the current model, which, given the way doctors are paid, incentivizes them to rush through as many patients as possible without being able to give personal attention.”
Nebraska state Sen. Merv Riepe: http://www.mervriepe.com/