It isn’t often we can see positive, common-sense free-market ideas grab headlines when it comes to health care. But that is what is happening in Michigan.
Direct Primary Care in medical practice is the idea on the rise, as Daniel McCorry of The Heritage Foundation pointed out in a comprehensive report on the topic published in August.
That piece caught the eye of Dr. Lee Gross, who is president of both Epiphany Health Care in Florida, a Direct Primary Care practice, and the Docs4PatientCare Foundation, a 501c3 educational project that has included Direct Primary Care as one of four pillars of its health care reform agenda, which was published in its Physician’s Prescription for Health Care Reform.
Combined with other straightforward alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, such as Health Savings Accounts and High-Deductible Health Insurance plans, Direct Primary Care practices could fill a glaring hole in America’s health care system by allowing patients direct access to their personal physicians for a fee comparable to what they pay for their cell phones each month.
But one potential barrier to the growth of Direct Primary Care is the question of whether these practices can be regulated as “insurers.” Direct Primary Care providers have been concerned they could be labeled by states as “risk-bearing entities” when they provide health care in exchange for a monthly fee, and thus be forced to be licensed and regulated as insurers.
Gross had been discussing this issue since July 2013 with state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton. The report from Heritage convinced them it was time to act.
On Sept. 9, Colbeck and Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, introduced Senate Bill 1033, which clarifies the Michigan Insurance Code by clearly stating that, in Michigan, this arrangement is not health insurance and these practices are exempt from insurance regulations.
The legislation has cleared two committee votes and now awaits a third reading in the state Senate.
In addition, the Michigan Senate Health Policy Committee passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 23, which goes to the floor of the state Senate for a vote. This resolution asks the federal government to implement the four federal reform recommendations on Direct Primary Care cited in the Heritage Backgrounder.
Although this represents only one small victory for Direct Primary Care in one state, it serves as a model of what can be accomplished when health care policy experts work with physicians and legislators to enact meaningful and necessary changes in the ongoing effort to improve health care for all Americans.