Over the last couple years I've talked a lot about direct primary care (DPC), a doctor practice model that largely cuts insurance out of the patient care equation. By assigning clear prices to care rather than "coverage" and guaranteeing access to patients, DPC doctors offer a market-based reform to our health care system that benefits doctors and patients alike.
The good news is that such arrangements are arguably promoted under the Affordable Care Act; the bad news is that many states could try to regulate these practices as insurance providers when they're clearly not. Missouri fixed that problem last year by protecting DPC medical retainer arrangements from such insurance regulation, and it appears it won't be the last state implementing these reforms, either. Enter Wyoming, last month:
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) has signed into law Senate File 49, which will exempt direct primary care practices from state insurance code regulations....
Dr. Hal Scherz, founder of Docs4PatientCare, says Wyoming’s protection of direct primary care providers will help bring relief to a health care system that has grown unreasonably expensive for patients and physicians.
“We’ve got a huge problem here that’s brewing in our health care system, and what direct primary care does is a win-win for all—patients, doctors, the system itself,” said Scherz.
Dr. Scherz is exactly right. Direct primary care offers patients and doctors the opportunity to establish stable care relationships without the burdens of insurance and with the transparency of clear pricing. Taken together, less insurance paperwork and more doctor competition means better prices for patients and the opportunity for American consumers to finally see the cost curve for health care bent downward.
Nationally, sixteen states have passed retainer agreement reforms like those passed in Missouri and Wyoming, so the movement still has a long way to go to clear the way for more robust DPC availability. That said, it's a great start, and one that doctors, patients, and free marketeers can be excited about.